Skip to main content

Full text of "Raymond Aron - Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations"

See other formats

Raymond Aron 


With a new introduction by 

Daniel J. Mahoney and Brian C. Anderson 



Books by Raymond Aron Published by Transaction 

• In Defense of Decadent Europe 

• Main Currents in Sociological Thought 

Volume 1: Montesquieu, Comte, Marx, Tocqueville, 
and the Sociologists and the Revolution of 1848 

. Main Currents in Sociological Thought 
Volume 2: Durkheim, Pareto, Weber 

« The Opium of the Intellectuals 

• Peace & War: A Theory of International Relations 

• Politics and History 

. Thinking Politically: A Liberal in the Age of Ideology 



A Theory of 

Raymond Aron 

With a new introduction by 

Daniel J. Mahoney and Brian C. Anderson 


Taylor &. Francis Group 


Oiginallv published in 1966 by Doubleday & Company, Inc 
Published 2003 by Transaction Publishers 
Published 2017 by Routledge 

2 Park Square, Milton Park. Abingdon. Oxon 0X14 4RN 
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA 

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an infonna business 

New material this edition copyright © 2003 by Taylor & Francis. 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or 
utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now 
known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in 
any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing 
from the publishers. 


Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, 
and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to 

Library of Congress Catalog Number: 2003048420 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Aron, Raymond. 1905- 

[Paix et guerre entre les nations. English] 

Peace and war: a theory of international relations / Raymond Aron; with 
a new introduction by Daniel J. Mahoney & Brian C. Anderson, 
p. cm. 

Previously published as: Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1966. [1st ed.] 
Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 0-7658-0504-9 (pbk. : alk. paper) 

1. International relations. I. Title. 

JZ1305.A7613 2003 

327’.1’01—dc21 2003048420 

ISBN 13: 978-0-7658-0504-1 (pbk) 

International law is based by nature upon this principle: that the various 
nations ought to do, in peace, the most good to each other, and, in war, the 
least harm possible, without detriment to their genuine interests. 

—Montesquieu, L’Esprit des lots, I, 3 

Taylor &. Francis 

Taylor &. Francis Group 

In 1954 , in a note on an article entitled “On the Analysis of Diplomatic 
Constellations” published in the Revue frangaise da science -politique, I an¬ 
nounced a Sociology of International Relations. For several years I had been 
contemplating the book that I now offer. During that time the theme broad¬ 
ened, and the distinctions of theory, sociology, and praxiology came to seem 
to me fundamental in order to grasp, on the different levels of conceptual¬ 
ization, the intelligible texture of a social universe. Ultimately, although this 
book deals chiefly with the world today, its deepest aim is not linked to the 
present. My goal is to comprehend the implicit logic of relations among po¬ 
litically organized collectivities. This effort of comprehension culminates in 
the question that will determine the future of the human race. 

Will the nations henceforth capable of annihilating, without even disarm¬ 
ing, each other, discover the meaning of a truly peaceful coexistence? I do 
not claim to give an answer which only history can afford. But perhaps this 
hook will help readers to reflect on the problem in all its complexity . 1 

Venanson, July 1959 
Paris, October 1961 

1 1 should like to take this occasion to thank those who have helped me to bring this 
work to its conclusion; Harvard University, in appointing me Ford Research Professor 
of Government for a semester of 1960-61, afforded me several months of the student’s 
scholarly leisure; Suzanne Moussouris who indefatigably transcribed and retranscribed 
manuscripts almost illegible to anyone but herself; Isabelle Nicol who edited the text; 
Pierre Hassner who translated the English citations; and Stanley Hoffman and Pierre 
Bourdieu who suggested important corrections. 

Taylor &. Francis 

Taylor &. Francis Group 


Introduction to the Transaction Edition 


Preface to the American Edition 


Introduction The Conceptual Levels of Comprehension 



Concepts and Systems 

Chapter 1 

Strategy and Diplomacy, or On the Unity of Foreign 


Chapter II 

Power and Force, or On the Means of Foreign Policy 


Chapter III 

Power, Glory and Idea, or On the Goals of Foreign 

7 1 

Chapter IV 

On International Systems 


Chapter V 

On Multipolar Systems and Bipolar Systems 


Chapter VI 

Dialectics of Peace and War 



Determinants and Constants 



Chapter VII 

On S£ac^ 


Chapter VIII 

On Number 


Chapter IX 

On Resources 


Chapter X 

Nations and Regimes 


Chapter XI 

In Search of a Pattern of Change 


Chapter XII 

The Roots of War as an Institution 



The Global System in the Thermonuclear Age 



Chapter XIII 

Le monde fini, or The Heterogeneity of the 

Global System 


Chapter XIV 

On the Strategy of Deterrence 


Chapter XV 

Les grands Frires, or Diplomacy within the Blocs 

44 1 

Chapter XVI 

Stalemate in Europe, or Diplomacy between the 

47 6 

Chapter XVII 

Persuasion and Subversion, or The Blocs and the 

Non-Aligned Nations 


Chapter XVIII 

The Enemy Partners 



The Antinomies of Diplomatic-Strategic Conduct 



Chapter XIX 

In Search of a Morality: 

I: Idealism and Realism 


Chapter XX 

In Search of a Morality: 

II: Conviction and Responsibility 


Chapter XXI 

In Search of a Strategy: 

I: To Arm or Disarm? 


Chapter XXII 

In Search of a Strategy: 

II: To Survive Is to Conquer^ 


Chapter XXIII 

Beyond Power Politics: 

I: Peace through Law 


Chapter XXIV 

Beyond Power Politics: 

II: Peace through Empire 


Final Note 

Rational Strategy and Reasonable Policy 





Not so long ago, liberal democracy and capitalism seemed on the ascen¬ 
dant. The Soviet Union and its satellite regimes in Eastern and Central 
Europe had collapsed, the European Union was coming together, demo¬ 
cratic institutions were springing up across the globe, and the free market 
was extending the circle of prosperity and growth ever wider. Political think¬ 
ers and pundits began to speak of an “end of history” in a triumphant 
democratic capitalism, of the obsolescence of the nation-state, of a cosmo¬ 
politan “law of peoples.” At least for some, it was as if we were entering into 
a new, post-political era, in which the traditional enmities, passions, and 
conflicts of human history would give way to the management of success 
and the stating off of boredomJD 

The atrocities of September 11, the U.S. defeat of the Taliban in Af¬ 
ghanistan, imminent conflict in Iraq, internal national conflicts within 
NATO, nuclear brinkmanship between India and Pakistan, the collapse of 
the dot-com boom, and rising economic protectionism—how different the 
world appears today. Politics has returned vengefully, making the liberal 
optimism of the 1990s appear naively 

The great French liberal Raymond Aron would not have been surprised 
at the stubborn persistence of politics. In this impressive book, first pub¬ 
lished in French in 1962, Aron argues that international relations is, and 
will likely always remain, the realm of independent sovereignties, jealous of 
their interests and their prestige—their “Power, Glory, and Idea,” in Peace 
and War’s formulation@These sovereignties refuse to surrender their right, 
at least at the limit, to defend their interests and prestige through force of 
arms. This partial state of nature between states (what Kant famously called 
the “asocial sociality” of international life) is very different from the civil 
relations within states. The possibility of war is thus always among the 
statesman’s concerns and therefore should also be central to any attempt to 
think about international relations. 

The political thinker who ignores the problem of war fails two key inter¬ 
related duties of his calling: that of advising the statesman (and, in a demo¬ 
cratic context, educating the citizen); and that of mirroring as accurately, as 
“scientifically,” as possible, the reality of the political world. Peace and War 
is an ambitious attempt both to describe the permanent aspects of the life 
of nations and to advise statesmen and democratic citizens. To guide the 
reader in his reading of this big, complex book, we offer here a brief outline 
of its principal themes. 

Starting from the recognition of the partial state of nature among states, 
Aron develops in Peace and War an array of analytical tools for thinking 



about international relations. These tools fall under four headings: theory, 
sociology, history, and “praxeology” (that is, what is right and wrong among 
states, as distinct from within them). 

Under theory, Aron lays out a broad conceptual framework based on 
power and system. Power concerns the means and ends of foreign policy. As 
a means, power allows one political unit to impose its will on another, and in 
Aron’s view it has three components—territory, resources, and the collec¬ 
tive capacity for action. To understand how territory influences power, sim¬ 
ply look at the United States, a vast country, bordered on its eastern and 
western coasts by enormous oceans. These natural advantages have long 
protected the United States from invasion, though the threats of intercon¬ 
tinental missiles and of terrorists wielding biological, chemical, and radio¬ 
logical weapons have of course diminished somewhat the importance of 
territory as a means of power. As for resources, their contribution to a state’s 
power is a function of economic development. America’s tremendous wealth, 
generated from its vibrant open economy, has enabled it to exert its power 
globally in ways no other nation can match. 

It is at least possible to measure both territory and resources as means of 
power. By contrast, Aron shows, the collective capacity for action of a state 
depends on spiritual resources that resist all quantification. Who could 
have anticipated England’s fierce resistance to National Socialist Germany 
during the Second World War0A state can be far more powerful than its 
territory or level of wealth would suggest. 

And what do states use power for? Aron insists on the irreducible com¬ 
plexity of international relations —pace those like Kenneth Waltz, who boil 
them down to the “structural” competition for power and influence, or to 
neo-Marxists like Antonio Negri who see the machinations of capital be¬ 
hind every state actionH Nations pursue many ends, from the dream of 
autarky to a sacred ideal to the quest for influence or even grandeur. 

This irreducible complexity of ends means that we can at best discern 
probabilities within international relations. No simply predictive theory of 
state relations is possible. As Aron puts it at the end of Peace and War, it is 
“incontestable” that “political science is not operational, in the sense in 
which physics is, or even in the sense in which economics are.’0He shares 
Aristotle’s belief that a discussion “will be adequate if its degree of clarity 
fits the subject matter; for we should not seek the same degree of exactness 
in all sorts of arguments alike, any more than in the products of different 
crafts.’0 Conjecture is more art than science. 

The notion of diplomatic system is the second part of Aron’s “theory” 
framework. A diplomatic system consists of those political units that main¬ 
tain relations and that would find themselves inexorably drawn into a gen¬ 
eralized war. A system, Aron points out, can consist of “heterogeneous” or 



“homogeneous” regimes—that is, regimes that pursue similar or dissimilar 
goals or that have similar or dissimilar constituting principles; a mixed 
system of heterogeneous and homogeneous regimes is also possible. To¬ 
day, the Western democracies and Iran or Iraq belong to a heterogeneous 
system, the democracies themselves a homogenous one. During World War 
II, the United States and the Soviet Union belonged to a mixed system, 
dissimilar regimes fighting together against a common enemy. And so on. 
Though Aron’s understanding of the political regime is narrower than 
Aristotle’s, which encompassed an entire way of life, it shares with it a pow¬ 
erful sense of the importance of politics. Aron is a particularly incisive critic 
of the “realist” delusion that great nations are guided by conceptions of 
“the national interest” that are more or less immune to fundamental changes 
of regime and ideology. 

These kind of theoretical distinctions allow Aron to grasp international 
relations from within, in accordance with their inner logic and historical 
specificity, and the nature of the regimes involved. It is an approach that 
avoids abstraction and conceptual hubris. 

After laying out this broad theoretical framework, Aron next moves to 
sociological analysis: the study of the myriad factors that influence foreign 
policy. The sociologist must determine the degree to which such factors 
influence the life of nations. The sociological causes, in Aron’s view, can 
be material and physical on the one hand, and moral and social on the 

Physical causes fall under three headings in Peace and War. The first is 
spatial. Like Montesquieu, Aron argues that environment may influence 
international relations but not determine them. Spatial considerations are 
also crucial in geopolitics—as the theater of battle and power. Space is also 
a stake in international relations, though much less so than in the past, 
given the general awareness that in the modern world wealth no longer 
depends on land and natural resources but on intelligence and good eco¬ 
nomics, and that military technology has made distance a diminishing ob¬ 
stacle to lethal forceP^The second physical factor Aron considers is number. 
In discerning how number influences peace and war, we can draw no solid 
inferences, Aron believes. Economic ups and downs do not make war or 
peace inevitable. As always with Aron, we are in the realm of better or worse 
conjectures, not deterministic predictions. 

Aron pays great attention to the moral and social causes of peace and war. 
Knowing the nature of a particular political regime or political culture is 
essential to making a good judgment about how it will act. The foreign 
policy of the Soviet Union largely took its bearings from ideology, Aron 
frequently argued. As long as the regime embraced Marxist-Leninist prin- 



ciples, it would seek only tactical peace with liberal democratic societies. 
Post-communist Russia, for all its difficulties and seemingly endemic cor¬ 
ruption, has acted very differently on the world stage than would have a still- 
communist state. Ignoring such regime differences obscured what political 
judgment could achieve in international relations. 

Nor was it the case that human nature required war. In a powerful pas¬ 
sage, Aron writes: 

It is contrary to the nature of man that the danger of violence be definitively 
dispelled: in every collectivity, misfits will violate the laws and attack persons. It 
is contrary to the nature of individuals and groups that the conflicts between 
individuals and groups disappear. But it is not proved that these conflicts must 
be manifested in the phenomenon of war, as we have known it for thousands of 
years, with organized combatants, utilizing increasingly destructive weapons!^ 

Different political regimes would allow different articulations of the hu¬ 
man propensity to violence, some much more sensible and less destructive 
than others. Politics matters. 

Aron devotes the third section of Peace and War to history—specifically, 
the history of the twentieth century up until the early 1960s. Though its 
examples might seem dated, in fact the argument is strikingly relevant. He 
looks both at the technological revolution and the globalization of diplo¬ 
macy—phenomena Aron believed marked the beginning of “universal his- 
tory.’^No one could deny that these two factors continue to play a prominent 
role in international relations. But as important as technology and univer¬ 
sal diplomacy are, Aron rightly emphasized that they have not changed the 
nature of man or his collective forms of organization. The dramatic features 
of history—the conflict of men, nations, and regimes—was just as real in 
1962—or 2002 for that matter—as it was when Thucydides wrote his great 
historical narrative. Neither the nuclear bomb nor the global economy has 
put an end to history. History may have slowed down, as Aron liked to put it, 
but history would continue “to write its letters in blood’*-® as long as the 
rivalry of men and regimes persisted. 

Theory, sociology, history: a correct comprehension of these categories 
will inform both a “science” of international relations and the decisions of 
the prudent statesman. The fourth part of Peace and War —in many ways 
the most profound of the book—concerns “praxeology,” Aron’s norma¬ 
tive theory of international relations. In it, Aron addresses two enduring 
problems of statecraft. 

The first Aron calls the “Machiavellian” problem. Is foreign policy essen¬ 
tially evil? What means may the statesman justifiably use? As the three ear- 



lier sections of Peace and War have shown, the political leader confronts a 
world of uncertainty; probabilities are the most he can rely on. He also 
confronts a diplomatic universe in which states retain their sovereignty and 
much of their freedom of action. 

One possible practical option for the statesman is the idealist “morality 
of law.” Idealist theories attempt to transcend international anarchy by pos¬ 
iting a categorical international morality. Aron rejects this approach as fool¬ 
hardy—and immoral. International “legality” and fairness often conflict. 
“If, in 1933,” Aron writes, “France had heeded Marshal Pilsudski’s advice 
and used force to overthrow Hitler, who had just come to power, she would 
have violated the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of 
other states, she would have failed to recognize Germany’s right of free choice 
with regard to regime and leader, she would have been denounced with indig¬ 
nation by American public opinion, by moralists and idealists hastening to 
the rescue, not of National Socialism, but of the will of the people or the 
rule of non-interference.’^But would France have been wrong? 

This example, Aron maintains, illumines a fundamental truth of inter¬ 
national relations. Since states remain “sole judges of what their honor 
requires,” the very existence of a political community can depend on the 
statesman’s willingness to measure the relations of force and, if necessary, to 
wield force in response to threats. To pretend that “international law” and 
“collective security” will protect his community in the absence of military might 
invites disaster. Indeed, such ingenuousness represents a moral failing. As 
Aron avows, “it is the duty of statesmen to be concerned, first of all, with the 
nation whose destiny is entrusted to them.The idealist promotes a vision 
that reinforces injustice. 

But if idealism fails as a morality of international relations, a “morality of 
struggle’^ does no better. Its advocates argue that, given the existence of 
independent sovereignties, the statesman may use all means at his dis¬ 
posal—from the simple ruse to assassination to lethal force—whenever he 
deems it appropriate. Critics often describe Aron as a realist® But though 
Aron, like the realists, appreciated the persistence of independent sover¬ 
eignties, he did not accept that state amorality was legitimate or even neces¬ 
sary. While the statesman owed his paramount moral duties to his own political 
community, Aron argued, relations between communities were 
“not...comparable to those of beasts in the jungle.”® 

Aron held that certain soi-disant realists took the dark and violent side of 
human nature—man as a beast of prey—as human nature tout court. This 
was to encourage the very brutality the realist pretended only to explain. 
“Even in relations between states, respect for ideas, aspirations to higher 
values and concerns for obligations have been manifested,” Aron pointed 
out. “Rarely have collectivities acted as if they would stop at nothing with 



regard to one another. ’^The realist might deny it, but morality remained 
an integral feature of political history. 

The realist would even place democratic regimes and totalitarian re¬ 
gimes on the same level—all states indistinguishably pursuing their na¬ 
tional interest. But for Aron this was a kind of historical nihilism, treating 
“Christians” and “barbarians” as if there was no moral difference between 
them. This was immoral—and unwise even from the standpoint of national 
interest. For a democracy had more to fear from political marauders than 
from other democracies, as the twentieth century has proved. 

Superior to both the “morality of law” and the “morality of struggle,” in 
Aron’s view, was what Aron called the “morality of prudence.” Attuned to 
the rivalrous nature of international relations, yet aware also of a shared 
human nature and certain moral universals, prudence offered a better sense 
of reality and morality than its rival approaches. The prudent statesman 
preferred “the limitation of so-called absolute justice,” and 
strove to attain “concrete accessible objectives conforming to the secular 
law of international relations and not to limitless and perhaps meaningless 
objectives, such as ‘a world safe for democracy’ or ‘a world from which power 
politics has disappeared.”^ It captured what was true in both idealist and 
realist approaches while correcting their excesses. 

The morality of prudence represented political wisdom in the partially 
Hobbesian world of international relations, where states retained sover¬ 
eignty but still acknowledged some measure of human universality. Was a 
different world possible if states surrendered their sovereignty? This, Aron 
suggested, was the “Kantian” problem of universal peace, Peace and War s 
second “praxeological” exploration. 

There were signs of a world community, but they were for the most part 
relatively superficial. A transnational society, for example, had emerged 
from the technological marvels of the twentieth century. Planes and televi¬ 
sions (and today the Internet) brought far-flung corners of the world into 
regular contact. Yet for every indication of a transnational society, Aron 
suggested, one could come up with a counter-indication, showing growing 
conflict between societies and cultures. There might be more talk of hu¬ 
man rights in our time, he added, but how could any observer of the age of 
extremes—an age of mass atrocity and obliterating wars—say that a greater 
awareness of the human community as a whole had gained much ground? 
In many ways, humankind remained as divided as ever. 

As Aron explained, only law or empire could overcome the “immemo¬ 
rial” order of collectivities. And neither approach was likely to succeed. 
Even if some super-tribunal or compelling political will came into being, 
would it not simply amplify the causes of conflict, Aron asked? The in- 



equalities and resentments that cause tension within political commu¬ 
nities—and that can even lead to revolution—would now be the respon¬ 
sibility of one universal sovereign. Why would such resentments 
disappear within a universal state or world federation? This would mean 
that man had solved the problem of politics itself. 

And would a post-political world be desirable? It would mean the end of 
a strong sense of nationhood. Aron saw a sense of political particularity as 
something rooted in human nature—and therefore something to treasure. 
“The diversity of cultures,” he wrote, “is not a curse to be exorcized but a 
heritage to be safe guarded. ”0 To regret this, the way, say, John Rawls and 
other cosmopolitan liberals have done, is to deny that which is common in 
the quixotic quest for what is individual and absolutely universal. It would 
represent an impoverishment of human existence. 

One way to address both the need for a community of culture and to 
move toward universal peace would be to pursue federation. But could the 
world become a giant Switzerland? Turning to the German theorist Carl 
Schmitt, Aron said such an outcome was utopian 10 In Schmitt’s view—and 
Aron had some sympathy for it—the distinction between friend and enemy 
is central to politics. The force that binds a community results in part from 
opposition to the other. While Aron did not deduce the impossibility of 
world federation from Schmitt’s friend-enemy distinction, he did believe 
that hostility was natural to man and could only be moderated, not elimi¬ 
nated. And that moderation required a binding of community that in turn 
required an outside—if not an enemy, then at least an other. There was a 
big difference, Aron felt, between the feasible broadening of world commu¬ 
nity and the unification of the world, which was a dream at the limits of the 
historically possible. At best, the notion of a unified humanity might func¬ 
tion as an “idea of reason” that could serve to moderate the bellicose pro¬ 
clivities of human beings and political communities. Here, too, sobriety 
and a sense of historical realism are necessary to avoid the twin extremes of 
false realism and false idealism. 

Peace and War was perhaps Aron’s most ambitious book. Aron was justly 
proud of this book but was never wholly satisfied with it. He had consider¬ 
able doubts about whether he had finally succeeded in integrating its theo¬ 
retical and historical dimensions and he feared that his work contained too 
much analysis of the passing events of his day. In any case, Peace and War is 
by no means Aron’s final word on the nature of international relations or 
the politics of the twentieth century. It needs to be read in conjunction with 
his magisterial book on Clausewitzp^the work that Aron considered to be 
his great masterpiece, as well as with his writings on the history of the twen¬ 
tieth century, now collected in English as The Dawn of Universal History: 



Selected Essays from a Witness to the Twentieth Century (Basic Books, 2002). 
Together, these writings convey the magnitude of Aron’s achievement as an 
authoritative, humane, and trustworthy guide to politics and history in an 
age unhinged by the ideological temptation. Despite Aron’s own lingering 
doubts. Peace and War remains an indispensable book for those who wish to 
comprehend the place of peace and war in the human order of things. 
Written with the clear, classically restrained language Aron was noted for, 
the book stands out as one of the twentieth century’s great works of political 
thought. At a time when history is once again on the move, and the liberal 
utopianism of recent years appears increasingly shallow. Peace and War 
reminds us of the fallibility of human knowledge, and the limits, but also 
the grandeur, of human morality in a dangerous and imperfect world. 

Daniel J. Mahoney 

Brian C. Anderson 


E-kee Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 
1993); Kenichi Ohmae, The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy 
(New York: HarperCollins, 1991) ; and John Rawls, “The Law of Peoples,” in Stephen 
Shute and Susan Hurley, eds., On Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures, 1993 (New 
York: Basic Books, 1993), pp. 41-82. 

0For Fukuyama’s updated, post-September 11 view on whether history has ended or not, 
see “Has History Started Again?” Policy, Winter 2002, pp. 3-7. Flis answer: no. 

0This introduction adapts and draws on longer treatments of Peace and War published 
earlier in Brian C. Anderson, Raymond Aron: The Recovery of the Political (Lanham, MD: 
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997), pp. 121-165 and Daniel J. Mahoney, The Liberal 
Political Science of Raymond Aron (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1992), 
pp. 91-110. See also Bryan-Paul Frost, “Raymond Aron’s Peace and War, Thirty Years 
Later," InternationalJournal, Vol. 51, Spring 1996, pp. 339-361. 

I^This collective capacity for action can increase or diminish as a consequence of politi¬ 
cal leadership—another variable of international relations that escapes measurement. 
Aron underscored this point elsewhere: “Without Churchill, would England have stood 
firm all alone against the Third Reich?... Traditional history is action, that is to say it is 
made of decisions taken by men in a precise place and time. These decisions could have 
been different with another man in the same situation, or with the same man with 
another disposition. No one can fix, either beforehand or retrospectively, the limits of 
the consequences that some of these localized and dated decisions generate.” Raymond 
Aron, In Defense of Political Reason, edited by Daniel J. Mahoney (Lanham, MD: Rowman 
& Littlefield Publishers, 1994), p. 138. 

ElSee Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 
1979). For a neo-Marxist vision of the life of nations, see Michael Hardt and Antonio 
Negri ,Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001). 

OOSee below, p. 768. 

^Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, trans. By T. Irwin (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishers, 
1995), Bk. I, 1094b. 

0On military technology, see Raymond Aron, The Century of Total War (Lanham, MD: 
University Press of America, 1985). On knowledge as a source of wealth, see Michael 



Novak, The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 

0See below, p. 366. 

®See Raymond Aron, Progress and Disillusion: The Dialectics of Modern Society (New York: 
Praeger, 1968). 

0See Raymond Aron, Clausewitz: Philosopher of War (Englewood Cliffs, N.T.: Prentice- 
Hall, 1985), p. 412. 
li^See below, p. 580. 


EUlbid., p. 608. 

^See, for example, Charles R. Beitz, Political Theory and International Relations 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 27-28. 

E^See below, p. 581. 

□ ibid., p. 609. 

QUlbid., p. 585. 

G3lbid„ p. 750. 

EDSchmitt, writing during the collapse of Weimer Germany, believed liberalism irrepara¬ 
bly doomed by its refusal to recognize the violent core of politics—that politics invari¬ 
ably opposed friend and enemy. See The Concept of the Political , trans. By G. Schwab, with 
comments by Leo Strauss (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). Schmitt’s subse¬ 
quent involvement with the Nazis has rightly tarnished his reputation, but his work 
raises pressing questions for liberal democracies, as Aron acknowledged. Philippe Raynaud 
has sketched out what one could call the “hidden dialogue” between Aron and Schmitt. 
See “Raymond Aron et le droit international,” Cahiers de philosophic etjuridique. No. 15, 
1989, pp. 115-28. 

[^Raymond Aron, Clausewitz: Philosopher of War (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 

Taylor &. Francis 

Taylor &. Francis Group 


This book, begun several years ago, was completed during the 1960-61 aca¬ 
demic year, first at Cambridge, where the author was a Research Professor at 
Harvard University, then in France during the following spring and summer. 
It was published in 1962 in Paris, and therefore appears in the United States 
almost five years after it was written, four years after its first French edition. 

If the text, aside from several minor corrections already introduced, for 
the most part, into the second French edition, has not been modified, the 
chief reason for this is pre-eminently the character of the book, which is not, 
in its author’s mind, concerned with the present in the sense in which this 
term is utilized by the press. Of course Part III, entitled "History,” offers an 
analysis of the diplomatic universe in which we live: coextensive with the 
limits of the planet, dominated by thermonuclear weapons, mainly possessed 
by two giant states. In a certain sense the first two parts, “Theory” and “Soci¬ 
ology,” are also oriented toward the present. But the effort of comprehension, 
both theoretical and sociological, emphasizes primarily a conceptual apparatus, 
indispensable to a grasp of relations between states, then the scope of the 
determinants which affect these relations, and finally the possible constants 
revealed by the study of the past. Even historical comprehension, beyond the 
unforeseeable vicissitudes of the cold war or of peaceful coexistence, has for 
its object the lasting and, so to speak, structural characteristics of the post- 
1945 world. 

Writing at the end of 1965 , I should probably be led to formulate or to 
orient my views differently on one point or another, but the essential thing is 
that the instruments of analysis remain effective and that the changes that 
have occurred during these last four years have taken place within an es¬ 
tablished context. Now, without claiming to summarize the events of the 
1961-65 period, I should like to indicate, in a few pages, why the more or 
less spectacular transformations of the diplomatic scene proceed from ten¬ 
dencies long since visible, and in what direction they tend. 

The governing idea by which I interpreted the diplomatic situation was 
that of the solidarity of the two great powers—the warring brothers—against 
a total war of which they would be the first victims. Inevitably enemies by 
position and by the incompatibility of their ideologies, the United States and 
the Soviet Union have a common interest not in ruling together over the 
world (of which they would be quite incapable), but in not destroying each 
other. This politico-strategic doctrine was openly professed in the universities 
and institutes of the United States; it very nearly became the official doctrine 
of the Kennedy administration. And the Soviet leaders acted as if they in 
effect acknowledged this same doctrine. But they often spoke as if they were 
ignorant of it or rejected it. That is why I wondered, before the autumn of 
1962 , if the asymmetry of strategic conceptions (flexible response on the 
American side, inevitable escalation on the Russian side), the rejection of 



even limited agreements (such as relative agreement on the suspension of 
nuclear tests), was not due to Mr. Khrushchev’s conviction or illusion that 
he was gaining an advantage from the fear such a war inspired—a fear that 
he felt quite as much as did his rival, but that he affected to ignore. 

The Cuban crisis of October-November 1962 seems to have shaken this 
conviction or dissipated this illusion. Mr. Khrushchev had several times, 
though in a vague and reticent manner, threatened to utilize thermonuclear 
rockets to protect Cuba. When he committed the imprudence of constructing 
a Cuban base for medium-range missiles, an American quasi-ultimatum 
forced him to choose between a reply in another zone of the planet—where 
he could benefit from a superiority in conventional weapons comparable to 
that of the United States off the coast of Florida—a recourse to the apocalyptic 
weapons, or retreat. It appears that Mr. Khrushchev did not hesitate long: 
he preferred retreat, at the risk of being accused of “capitulationism” by his 
Chinese friends. 

No shot had been fired, except by the Cubans who had downed an Ameri¬ 
can plane, and yet the American notes, supported by military preparations, 
had transmitted to Moscow a message whose meaning was clear. For the first 
time, two states equipped with thermonuclear weapons faced each other in a 
direct confrontation. Deterrence ceased to be an abstract notion. Discovering, 
perhaps with surprise, that the American weapons were at the disposal of a 
man determined, in certain circumstances, to assume all risks, Mr. Khru¬ 
shchev provisionally drew a lesson from the crisis and from his defeat: hence¬ 
forth, on the subject of thermonuclear war, he was to use the same language 
as the American President. Further, insofar as the Soviet leaders continue to 
affect a certain skepticism toward the subtleties in which American analysts 
indulge, asserting that local wars, when the nuclear powers are involved in 
them, will escalate to a general and total war, they must adopt a still more 
prudent attitude than their enemy. For this reason, the Soviet leaders have 
officially accepted the American doctrine; they proclaim it on all occasions, 
and have given two proofs of their adherence in actions: the signing of the 
Moscow Treaty on the partial suspension of nuclear tests, and the establish¬ 
ment of a direct line between the Kremlin and the White House, a symbol 
of the enemies’ alliance against war. 

However incontestable it may be, this change chiefly affects climate and 
language. The Moscow Treaty allows of no supervision and does not forbid 
underground tests, lacking as it does an agreement concerning the number of 
on-site inspections necessary to guarantee respect for the treaty. But it is true 
that the acceleration phase of the 1961-62 arms race, which I noted at the 
completion of this book, has been succeeded by a slowdown; both phases are 
in accord with the logic of that singular hostility that limits the common de¬ 
sire not to perish together for the sole advantage of today’s or tomorrow’s 

The Russo-American raffrochement, though its essential cause and objec- 



tive was to reduce the danger of nuclear war, is situated in a political context 
which has, to a degree, provoked it, and which it influences in return. We 
know better, in 1965 , the various episodes of the Sino-Soviet conflict than we 
knew four years ago. The Chinese have taught us that in 1957 an agreement 
had been concluded between the two great Communist powers providing for 
Soviet aid to the Chinese atomic program, and that two years later, after the 
military operations in the Strait of Formosa in 1958 , this agreement had been 
denounced by Moscow. The desire of the Soviet Union to retain a monopoly 
of nuclear weapons in the socialist camp has thus been one of the causes of 
the—subsequently public—break between the Russians and the Chinese. The 
Russian desire, like the Chinese refusal, was the expression of the normal 
conflict between two sovereign states, one of which claims to retain the lead¬ 
ership of a common strategy, while the other aspires to independence on the 
day it can make its own vital decisions. 

Perhaps Mr. Khrushchev decided to sign the Moscow agreement, in 1963 , 
only after he had lost all hope of re-establishing the unity of the socialist 
camp. For in signing with his enemy a treaty whose evident objective was to 
make the acquisition of nuclear weapons more difficult for his ally, he was 
consecrating in the eyes of the world a divorce that the publicity of interna¬ 
tional polemics no longer permitted him to conceal. Of course, the treaty seen 
from Paris had the same meaning it had for Peking. The three members of 
the atomic club were trying to keep the other states from doing what they 
themselves had done, were condemning them in advance to the moral repro¬ 
bation of the world. Relations between Paris and Washington, as was fore¬ 
seeable, suffered from a treaty that the American leaders regarded as useful to 
peace, hence to the protection of humanity, and that General de Gaulle re¬ 
garded as a manifestation of the age-old egoism, indeed cynicism of national 
states, “those cold monsters.” 

However bad relations between Washington and Paris today, however com¬ 
parable the French or Chinese refusals to subscribe to the Moscow Treaty or 
to submit to the authority of the leader of their respective camps, the differ¬ 
ences are still more marked than the similarities, because the diplomacy of 
the democratic states obeys different rules from that of the totalitarian states. 
The split between Moscow and Peking reminds us that a common ideology 
does not suffice to cement an alliance, but, assuming that conflicting national 
interests of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were a 
major cause of the split, the latter would not have had the same character if 
each of the two rivals had not immediately translated into ideological terms its 
conception of its own interests or of the opportune strategy, and had not at¬ 
tempted to win over to its cause the other socialist parties throughout the 
world. In their alliances as in their disputes, the Communist states are neither 
exclusively governed by their ideologies nor indifferent to the historical philos¬ 
ophy from which they derive. States of the liberal type, such as the United 
States or France, remain more easily allied, even when they do not manage 



to agree, because divergence of opinions is a part of the natural process of 
democracy, and because none of them claims to possess a final truth (nor 
even imagines that in such matters there is a final truth). 

The rapprochement of the United States and the Soviet Union in order to 
prevent war, the Sino-Soviet conflict, the effort of Gaullist France to acquire 
a purely national nuclear strategic force and even an independent diplomacy 
—does all this mark the end of the bipolar system and the beginning of a new 
phase of international relations? Let us remember first of all that bipolarity 
has never been effective except in the military sphere, and in a limited region 
of the world. Now, in military terms, bipolarity subsists in the sense that 
weapons or means of destruction possessed by the Soviet Union and the 
United States remain overwhelmingly superior to those of all other states, 
even of Great Britain, which possesses a nuclear force, and of France and 
China, which are on the way to acquiring one. 

But the destructive capacity the giants possess does not correspond to a 
proportional capacity to impose their wills upon the other states. Never have 
weapons been so terrifying, never have they inspired so little terror in those 
who are not equipped with them. Albania defies the Soviet Union, and Cuba 
the United States. It is as if military strength can be translated into diplo¬ 
matic power only with great difficulty when the so-called supreme weapons 
are so monstrously inhuman. Or again, to use another formula, it is as if the 
Russian and American thermonuclear forces paralyzed each other, preventing 
the amplification of local conflicts and functioning only in a subsidiary way 
in relations between great and small powers, particularly in the Southern 
Hemisphere. At most, the thermonuclear weapons impose on those who do 
not possess them some moderation in the conduct of their undertakings. In 
the Siberian north as in southeast Asia, China harasses the “revisionist” ally 
or the “imperialist enemy.” She cannot, without incurring an extreme danger, 
launch an open aggression. 

Outside the two European blocs the so-called non-aligned states, with their 
many and varying versions of neutrality and neutralism, become more numer¬ 
ous year by year. But in this regard, nothing has changed except at most an 
accentuation of the tendency to form diplomatic sub-systems, each involving 
a local balance of forces, national or traditional rivalries between non-aligned 
states, sub-systems linked to the global system but not merely reflecting it. 

Within the two European blocs the symptoms of dissolution have multi¬ 
plied in the course of recent years. As a result of the Sino-Soviet conflict 
the states of Eastern Europe have asserted their national interests, some, like 
Rumania, by opposing the COMECON plans, others, like Hungary or even 
Czechoslovakia, by internal liberalization, and all, finally, by rejecting the 
exclusive influence of Russian culture and by re-establishing links with the 
West. Merchandise, men, and ideas cross what was once the Iron Curtain. 
Bilateral agreements between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe 
are increasing. Since the Cuban crisis, Soviet rulers have accommodated them- 



selves to the existing status of Berlin and no longer brandish their weapons 
to obtain, its modification. In this pacified atmosphere, in the absence of a 
real fear of war, the members of the Atlantic Alliance feel less bound by 
solidarity. France’s veto of Great Britain’s membership in the Common Mar¬ 
ket, Gaullist diplomacy’s effort to assure France the greatest possible auton¬ 
omy in relation to the United States, Bonn’s hesitation between the treaty 
with France and the Atlantic Alliance—all these recent vicissitudes afford an 
image of the Continent quite different from that available to the observer five 
years ago. In the light of present events it is not impossible to imagine, on the 
horizon of history, the reunification of Europe “from the Atlantic to the 

But for the moment these are only eventualities possible at an indeter¬ 
minate date. In military terms the division of Europe exists, as does that of 
Germany and of Berlin. So long as Germany remains divided, the funda¬ 
mental stake of the cold war in Europe will remain the same. Only the Soviet 
Union’s abandonment of the so-called German Democratic Republic and her 
consent to a united Germany would mark the liquidation of the consequences 
of the Second World War. Now it is on the territory of the German Demo¬ 
cratic Republic that the twenty Soviet divisions are stationed threatening 
Western Europe and effectively guaranteeing a minimum of discipline among 
the satellite states. The day these divisions withdraw inside the boundaries of 
the U.S.S.R., what will remain of the Soviet bloc? What will limit the re¬ 
visionism and nationalism of peoples who have been subjected against their 
will to a Communist regime but who, after twenty years, have not been con¬ 
verted to the new faith? Communism’s historical failure in Eastern Europe 
is a promise for the future, but at the same time it forbids the Kremlin leaders 
to make concessions that might involve the complete dissolution of their bloc. 

The easing of the political situation in Europe is accompanied by mount¬ 
ing tensions in the third world. Asia in particular is becoming the center of 
the crisis. But this situation is no longer one of direct confrontation of the 
two blocs, or the two super powers. The Soviet Union and the People’s Re¬ 
public of China are being drawn into a sort of cold war, the prize of which is 
leadership in the international communist movement. At the same time, the 
United States, directly engaged in Vietnam, is endeavoring, by the limited 
use of military weapons, to contain China and to convert Mao Tse-tung and 
his men to a policy of peaceful coexistence. 

The interrelationship between these two conflicts on occasion results in the 
convergence of the respective interests of the Soviet Union and of the United 
States. For example, in September 1965, the two super powers both desired 
the rapid halting of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. It is 
possible that the Soviet Union would look favorably upon a solution reached 
by negotiation, but she has lost the capability to impose her will upon the 
Asian communist countries. She is avoiding open intervention, this being sus¬ 
ceptible to provoking the emergence of an American republic. Despite every- 



thing, she sent a few arms to North Vietnam (ground-to-air missiles) in order 
not to appear indifferent to the lot of a socialist state; in order not to lose, in 
the eyes of the third world, the prestige of the revolutionary idea. The Soviet 
Union cannot ostensibly collaborate with the United States without furnish¬ 
ing some form of argument for her ideological rival. 

More than ever before, the distinction between appearances and diplomatic 
realities is becoming apparent. In the past, the Soviet Union has often con¬ 
cealed the action she has taken with regard to Western Europe. Today, we 
have reached the stage where she conceals, under veil of invective, an im¬ 
plicit accord with the United States. 

Whatever judgment we formulate on the present phase, whatever the 
optimism with which we envisage the immediate prospects, the fundamental 
problems of international relations in the thermonuclear age remain today 
what they were four years ago. Perhaps a change of leaders in Moscow or in 
Washington would revive the recently allayed anxieties. Certainly, if China 
became the national enemy of the Soviet Union and no longer merely a rival 
within the same camp, if the Soviet Union consented to a European settle¬ 
ment acceptable to the West, the situation would become essentially different. 
Even in this hypothesis, the main uncertainty of our age would still remain. 
China has already exploded a first atomic bomb. Like the Soviet Union, like 
the United States, she must seek an answer to the question that dominates 
the diplomacy of our epoch: how to use the thermonuclear weapons diplo¬ 
matically so that they will never have to be used militarily? 

But how long can a threat be brandished without having to be carried 
out? Can strategic interaction be indefinitely prolonged in the shadow of the 
apocalypse? And if the answer is negative, how escape from that interaction? 
It is reasonable for the great powers not to wage a war to the death, but if the 
philosophers have often defined man as a reasonable being, they have rarely 
asserted with the same assurance that human history deserved the same 


The Conceptual Levels of Comprehension 

Troubled times encourage meditation. The crisis of the Greek city-state has 
bequeathed us Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics. The religious conflicts 
that lacerated Europe in the seventeenth century produced, with Leviathan 
and the Tractatus, the theory of the neutral state, necessarily absolute accord¬ 
ing to Hobbes, broadly interpreted, at least philosophically, according to 
Spinoza. In the century of the English Revolution, Locke defended and 
elucidated civil liberties. In the period when the French were unconsciously 
generating their Revolution, Montesquieu and Rousseau defined the essence 
of the two regimes that were to emerge from the sudden or gradual decom¬ 
position of the traditional monarchies: representative governments restrained 
by the balance of power, and so-called democratic governments invoking the 
will of the people but rejecting all limits to their authority. 

After this century’s Second World War, the United States, which through¬ 
out its history had dreamed of standing aloof from the affairs of the Old 
World, found itself responsible for the peace, the prosperity, and the very 
existence of half the planet. GIs were garrisoned in Tokyo and Seoul in the 
Orient, in Berlin in Europe. The West had known nothing like it since the 
Roman Empire. The United States was the first truly world power, since 
there was no precedent for the global unification of the diplomatic scene. 
In relation to the Eurasian land mass, the American continent occupied a 
position comparable to that of the British Isles in relation to Europe: the 
United States was continuing the tradition of the insular state by attempting 
to bar the dominant continental state’s expansion in central Germany and in 

No great work comparable to those we have mentioned has emerged from 
the circumstance created by the joint victory of the United States and the 
Soviet Union. International relations have become the object of an academic 
discipline. Professorships, whose incumbents are dedicating themselves to the 
new discipline, have multiplied. The number of books and manuals has 
swollen proportionately. Have so many efforts come to anything? Before an- 



swering, we must specify what the American professors, following statesmen 
and public opinion itself, propose to discover or elaborate. 

Historians did not wait for the accession of the United States to world 
primacy to study “international relations,” but they described or related more 
than they analyzed or explained. No science, however, limits itself to describ¬ 
ing or relating. Further, what profit can statesmen or diplomats derive from 
the historical knowledge of past centuries? The weapons of mass destruction, 
the techniques of subversion, the ubiquity of military force because of avia¬ 
tion and electronics, introduce new human and material factors which render 
the lessons of the past equivocal at best. Or, at least, such lessons cannot be 
used unless they are assimilated into a theory that includes the like and the 
unlike, and separates constants in order to elaborate, and not to eliminate, the 
part played by the unknown. 

This was the decisive question. Specialists in international relations were 
unwilling merely to follow the historians; like all scholars, they wanted to 
establish axioms, create a body of doctrine. Only geopolitics was concerned 
with abstraction and explanation in international relations. But German geo¬ 
politics had left bad memories, apart from which the spatial framework was 
insufficient for a theory whose function was to grasp the multiplicity of causes 
affecting the course of relations among states. 

It was easy to characterize the theory of international relations in general 
terms. “First of all, it makes possible the ordering of data. It is a useful in¬ 
strument for understanding.’!!] Next, “the theory requires that the criteria for 
selection of problems for intensive analysis be made explicit. It is not always 
recognized that whenever a particular problem is selected for study and anal¬ 
ysis in some context or other, there is practically always a theory underlying 
the choice.” Lastly, “Theory can be an instrument for the comprehension not 
only of uniformities and regularities, but contingencies and irrationalities as 
well.” Who could object to such formulations? Ordering of data, selection of 
problems, determination of constants and variables— every theory, in the social 
sciences, must in any case fulfill these three requirements. The problems arise 
beyond these incontestable propositions. 

The theoretician often tends to simplify reality, to interpret behavior by 
uncovering the implicit logic of the actors. Hans J. Morgenthau writes: “A 
theory of international relations is a rationally ordered summary of all the 
rational elements which the observer has found in the subject matter. Such a 
theory is a kind of rational outline of international relations, a map of the 
international scene,® The difference between an empirical and a theoretical 

0 Kcnneth W. Thompson, "Toward a Theory of International Politics,” American 
Political Science Review, XLIX, 3, September 1955, pp. 735-36. 

Ld These remarks are quoted from a report by Mr. Morgenthau entitled “The Theoretical 
and Practical Importance of a Theory of International Relations” (p. ;) cited in 
Thompson, p. 737. 



interpretation of international relations is comparable to the difference be¬ 
tween a photograph and a painted portrait. “The photograph shows every¬ 
thing that can be seen by the naked eye. The painted portrait does not show 
everything that can be seen by the naked eye, but it shows something the 
naked eye cannot see: the human essence of the person who is portrayed.” 

To which another specialist replies by asking: what are the “rational ele¬ 
ments” of international politics? Is it enough to consider merely the rational 
elements in order to produce a sketch or paint a portrait in accord with the 
model’s essence? If the theoretician replies negatively to these two questions, 
he must take another path, that of sociology. Granted the goal—to sketch the 
map of the international scene—the theoretician will attempt to retain all the 
elements instead of fixing his attention on the rational ones alone. 

To this dialogue between the advocate of “rational schematics” and the 
champion of "sociological analysis”—a dialogue whose nature and implications 
the interlocutors have not always grasped—a traditionally American contro¬ 
versy is often added: the dialogue between idealism and realism. The realism, 
today baptized Machiavellianism, of European diplomats seemed, from across 
the Atlantic, typical of the Old World, the symptom of a corruption that men 
had sought to escape by emigrating to the New World, the land of infinite 
possibility. But having become the dominant power by the collapse of the 
European order and the victory of its own weapons, the United States gradu¬ 
ally discovered, not without upheavals of conscience, that its diplomacy re¬ 
sembled less and less the old ideal and more and more the practice, once so 
harshly judged, of its enemies and its allies. Was it moral to buy Soviet 
intervention in the war against Japan with concessions at China’s expense? 
It was revealed, after the fact, that the venture was not a profitable one; that 
in rational terms Roosevelt should, in fact, have bought Soviet non-interven¬ 
tion. But would the calculation have been more moral if it had been rational? 
Was it right or wrong of Roosevelt to abandon Eastern Europe to Soviet 
domination? To plead the constraint of facts was to return to the argument 
that Europeans had used and that Americans, mighty in their virtue and their 
geographical situation, had long dismissed with scorn or indignation. The 
military leader is accountable to his nation for his actions, his successes or his 
defeats. What do good intentions and respect for private virtues matter? The 
law of diplomacy or strategy is a different thing. But under these conditions, 
what becomes of the dichotomy between realism and idealism, Machiavelli 
and Kant, corrupt Europe and virtuous America? 

This work seeks first to clarify, and subsequently to transcend, these de¬ 
bates. The two concepts of the theory are not contradictory, but comple¬ 
mentary: rational schematics and sociological propositions constitute succes¬ 
sive moments in the conceptual elaboration of a social universe. 

Understanding a realm of action does not permit us to settle the antinomies 
of action. Only history will perhaps some day curtail the eternal debate be¬ 
tween Machiavellianism and moralism. But by proceeding from formal theory 



to the determination of causes, and then to the analysis of a specific circum¬ 
stance, I hope to illustrate a method, applicable to other subjects, which 
shows both the limits of our knowledge and the conditions of historical 

In order to explain the structure of the book in this introduction, I must 
first define international relations, then specify the characteristics of the four 
levels of conceptualization which we call theory, sociology, history, praxiology. 


Recently a Dutch historian® appointed to the first chair of international 
relations created in his country, at Leyden, attempted in his inaugural lecture 
to locate the discipline that it was his task to teach. He concluded with an 
admission of failure: he had sought but not found the limits of the field he 
proposed to explore. 

His failure is instructive because it is definitive and, so to speak, obvious. 
“International relations” have no frontiers traced out in reality, they are not 
and cannot be materially separable from other social phenomena. But the 
same proposition would be valid apropos of economics, or politics. If it is true 
that “the proposal for developing the study of international relations as a 
self-contained system has failed,” the real question lies beyond its failure and 
concerns the meaning itself. After all, the attempt to make the study of eco¬ 
nomics a closed system has also failed; there nevertheless exists, and with 
reason, a science of economics, whose own reality and the possibility of 
whose isolation are not doubted by anyone. Does the study of international 
relations involve a proper focus of interest? Does it aim at collective 
phenomena, human behavior whose specificity is recognizable? And does this 
specific meaning of international relations lend itself to a theoretical elabora¬ 

International relations are, by definition it would seem, relations among 
nations. But in that case, the term nation is not to be taken in the historical 
sense it has assumed since the French Revolution; it does not designate a par¬ 
ticular kind of political community, one in which large numbers of individ¬ 
uals have a consciousness of citizenship and in which the state seems to be 
the expression of a pre-existent nationality. In the expression “international 
relations,” the nation equals any political collectivity that is territorially or¬ 
ganized. Let us say, provisionally, that international relations are relations 
among political units, the latter concept covering the Greek city-states, and 
the Roman or Egyptian empires as well as the European monarchies, the 
bourgeois republics or the people’s democracies. This definition involves a 
double difficulty. Are we to include in the relations among political units the 


H. N. Vlekke, On the Study of International Political Science, the David Davies 
Memorial Institute of International Studies, London (undated). 



relations among individuals belonging to those units? Where do political 
units, that is, territorially organized political collectivities, begin or end? 

When young Europeans want to spend their vacations beyond the borders 
of their respective countries, is this a phenomenon that should interest the 
specialist in international relations? When I buy German merchandise in a 
French store, when a French importer deals with a manufacturer across the 
Rhine, do these economic exchanges fall within the realm of “international 

It seems almost as difficult to answer affirmatively as negatively. Relations 
among states, i.e., strictly inter-state relations, constitute international relations 
par excellence: treaties are an indisputable example of such relations. Let us 
suppose that the economic exchanges between one nation and another are 
entirely regulated by an agreement between the two states: in this hypothesis, 
such exchanges pertain without reservation to the study of international rela¬ 
tions. Let us suppose, on the other hand, that the economic exchanges are 
withdrawn from strict regulation and that free exchange is the order of the 
day: in consequence the purchase of German merchandise in France, the sale 
of French merchandise in Germany will be individual acts not presenting the 
characteristics of inter-state relations. 

This difficulty is a real one, but it would be a mistake, it seems to me, to 
exaggerate its importance. No scientific discipline possesses distinct bound¬ 
aries. It is of little importance, in the first instance, to know where interna¬ 
tional relations end, to specify at what moment inter-individual relations cease 
to be international relations. We must determine the focus of interest, the 
proper significance of the phenomenon or of the action that constitutes the 
nucleus of this specific domain. Now the focus of international relations is on 
the relations which we have called inter-state, those which bring these en¬ 
tities to grips with one another. 

Inter-state relations are expressed in and by specific actions, those of indi¬ 
viduals whom I shall call symbolic, the diplomat and the soldier. Two men, 
and only two, no longer function as individual members but as representatives 
of the collectivities to which they belong: the ambassador, in the exercise of 
his duties, is the political unit in whose name he speaks; the soldier on the 
battlefield is the political unit in whose name he kills his opposite number. 
It is because he struck an ambassador that the blow of the Dey of Algiers’ fan 
assumed the status of a historical event. It is because he wears a uniform and 
acts out of duty that in war the citizen of a civilized state kills with a clear 
conscience. The ambassadoEland the soldier live and symbolize international 
relations which, insofar as they are inter-state relations, concern diplomacy 
and war. Inter-state relations present one original feature which distinguishes 

Eht follows that, in this abstract sense, the statesmen, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, 
Prime Ministers and heads of state are also, in certain of their actions, ambassadors. 
They represent the political unit as such. 



them from all other social relations: they take place within the shadow of 
war, or, to use a more rigorous expression, relations among states involve, in 
essence, the alternatives of war and peace. Whereas each state tends to re¬ 
serve a monopoly on violence for itself, states throughout history, by recogniz¬ 
ing each other, have thereby recognized the legitimacy of the wars they 
waged. In certain circumstances the reciprocal recognition of enemy states 
has proceeded to its logical conclusion: each state used only its regular army 
and refused to provoke, within the state it opposed, a rebellion which would 
have weakened its enemy but would also have shaken the monopoly of 
legitimate violence which it intended to preserve. 

As a science of peace and war, the science of international relations can 
serve as a basis for the arts of diplomacy and strategy, the complementary and 
opposed methods by which dealings among states are conducted. “War be¬ 
longs not to the province of Arts and Sciences, but to the province of social 
life. It is a conflict of great interests which is settled by bloodshed, and only 
in that is it different from others. It would be better, instead of comparing it 
with any Art, to liken it to business competition, which is also a conflict of 
human interests and activities; and it is still more like State policy, which 
again, on its part, may be looked upon as a kind of business competition on 
a great scale. Besides, state policy is the womb in which War is developed, 
in which its outlines lie hidden in a rudimentary state, like the qualities of 
living creatures in their germs.’IH 

Thus we can readily understand why international relations afford a focus 
of interest to a particular discipline and why they escape any precise delimita¬ 
tion. Historians have never isolated the account of events which touch on 
relations among states; such an isolation would have been impossible in prac¬ 
tice, so closely are the ups and downs of military campaigns and diplomatic 
combinations related to the vicissitudes of national destinies, and to the rival¬ 
ries of royal families or social classes. Like diplomatic history, the science of 
international relations has to recognize the multiple links between events on 
the diplomatic and national scenes. Nor can it rigorously separate inter-state 
relations from inter-individual relations involving several political units. But 
so long as humanity has not achieved unification into a universal state, an 
essential difference will exist between internal politics and foreign politics. 
The former tends to reserve the monopoly on violence to those wielding legit¬ 
imate authority, the latter accepts the plurality of centers of armed force. Poli¬ 
tics, insofar as it concerns the internal organization of collectivities, has for 
its immanent goal the subordination of men to the rule of law. Politics, 
insofar as it concerns relations among states, seems to signify—in both ideal 
and objective terms—simply the survival of states confronting the potential 
threat created by the existence of other states. Hence the common opposition 

HlKarl von Clausewitz, On War, Book II, Chap. 3, p. 121. All future references to 
this work are taken from the translation by J. J. Graham, Barnes and Noble, 1956. 



in classical philosophy: the art of politics teaches men to live in peace within 
collectivities, while it teaches collectivities to live in either peace or war. States 
have not emerged, in their mutual relations, from the state of nature. There 
would be no further theory of international relations if they had. 

It will be objected that this opposition, distinct on the level of ideas, is no 
longer distinct on the level of facts. It presupposes, indeed, that political 
units are circumscribed, identifiable. This is the case when the units are repre¬ 
sented by diplomats and uniformed soldiers—in other words, when they 
effectively exercise the monopoly on legitimate violence and recognize each 
other’s existence. In the absence of nations conscious of themselves as such, 
and of juridically organized states, internal and foreign politics tend to blend, 
the former not being essentially pacific and the latter not being radically bel¬ 

Under what rubric ought one to classify relations between the sovereign 
and his vassals in the Middle Ages, when the king or emperor scarcely pos¬ 
sessed armed forces which unconditionally obeyed him and when the barons 
swore an oath of fealty but not of discipline? By definition, the phases of 
diffused sovereignty, of dispersed armament, seem difficult to conceptualize, 
whereas conceptualization is appropriate to political units limited in space 
and separated from each other by the consciousness of men and the rigor of 

Occasionally the uncertainty of the distinction between conflicts among 
political units and conflicts within a political unit appears even in periods of 
concentrated and legally recognized sovereignty. If a province, an integrated 
portion of the state’s territory or a fraction of the population, refuses to sub¬ 
mit to the centralized power and undertake an armed struggle, the conflict, 
though civil war with regard to international law, will be considered a foreign 
war by those who see the rebels as the expression of an existing or nascent 
nation. Had the Confederacy won, the United States would have been di¬ 
vided into two states, and the War of Secession, having begun as a civil war, 
would have ended as a foreign one. 

Let us imagine a future universal state including all of humanity. In theory, 
there would be no army (the soldier is neither a policeman nor an execu¬ 
tioner, since he risks his life against another soldier), only a police force. If a 
province or a party took arms, the single global state would declare it a rebel 
and treat it as such. But this civil war, an episode of internal politics, would 
retrospectively seem a return to foreign politics should the rebel victory in¬ 
volve the dissolution of the universal state. 

This ambiguity in “international relations” is not to be imputed to the 
inadequacy of our concepts: it is an integral part of reality itself. It reminds 
us once again, should we need reminding, that the course of relations among 
political units is influenced in many ways by events within those units. It re¬ 
minds us, too, that the stakes of war are the existence, the creation or the 
elimination of states. Their study of transactions between organized states 



often causes specialists to forget that extreme weakness is as dangerous to 
peace as extreme strength. The zones in which armed conflicts break out are 
often those in which the political units are decomposing. The states that know 
or believe themselves condemned awaken rival greeds or, in a desperate at¬ 
tempt to save themselves, provoke the outbreak that will consume them. 

Does the study of international relations, if extended to include the birth 
and the death of states, lose all distinct limits, all originality? Those who be¬ 
gin by assuming that international relations are concretely separable will be 
disappointed by this analysis. But tbeir disappointment is not justified. Having 
for its central theme inter-state relations in their specific significance, that is, 
their characteristic alternatives of peace and war, and the alternations between 
these, the discipline devoted to the study of international relations cannot 
ignore the various modalities of relations among nations and empires, nor the 
many determinants operative within world diplomacy, nor the circumstances 
in which states appear and disappear. A complete science or philosophy of 
politics would include international relations as one of its chapters, but this 
chapter would retain its originality since it would deal with the relations be¬ 
tween political units, each of which claims the right to take justice into its 
own hands and to be the sole arbiter of the decision to fight or not to fight. 


We shall attempt to consider international relations at three levels of con¬ 
ceptualization, and we shall then examine the ethical and pragmatic prob¬ 
lems confronting the man of action. But before characterizing the three levels, 
we should like to show how two other realms of human action—sport and 
economics—lend themselves to an analogous distinction with respect to the 
modes of conceptualization. 

Let us consider the game called soccer. For the average spectator, the theory 
of the game consists of specifying the nature of the plays and the rules to 
which the player is subject. How many players oppose each other on either 
side of the central line? What means are the players entitled and not entitled 
to use? (They have the right to touch the ball with their heads, not with 
their hands.) How are the players distributed between the different lines (for¬ 
wards, center, wings)? How do they combine their efforts and thwart those 
of their opponents? This abstract theory is known by both players and spec¬ 
tators. The coach has no need to remind his players of it. On the other hand, 
in the framework of the rules, many situations can arise, either without de¬ 
liberate intention, or conceived in advance by the players. For each side, a 
coach works out a strategy, specifies each player’s role (this wing will cover 
the opponent’s forward), assigns each player responsibilities in certain typical 
or predictable situations. At this second stage, theory decomposes into various 
discourses addressed to the different players: there is a theory of effective be- 



havior for the wing, for the forward, for the center, simultaneous with an 
effective behavior for all or part of the team in specific circumstances. 

At the next stage the theoretician is no longer coach or teacher, but sociol¬ 
ogist. How do the games proceed, not on the blackboard but on the field? 
What are the characteristics of the methods adopted by the players of this or 
that country? Is there a Latin American soccer, an English soccer? What is 
the share of technical virtuosity and moral virtue in the success of the various 
teams? It is impossible to answer such questions without a historical study; 
we must observe the succession of games, the development of methods, the 
diversity of techniques and temperaments. The sociologist of sport might in¬ 
vestigate what causes determine national victories, either at a certain period 
or continually (exceptional gifts, number of participants, state support, etc.). 

The sociologist must combine the lessons of both theoretician and historian. 
If he does not understand the logic of the game, he will follow the players’ 
movements uncomprehendingly. He will not discover the meaning of the 
various tactics adopted, of zone play, of individual scoring. But general propo¬ 
sitions relating to factors of power or causes of victory are not enough to 
explain the Hungarian defeat in the world championship finals, nor to satisfy 
our curiosity completely. The outcome of a particular game is never deter¬ 
mined by the logic of the sport nor by the general causes of success: certain 
games, like particular wars, remain worthy of the account that historians de¬ 
vote to the heroes’ ordeals. 

Following the coach, the sociologist and the historian, a fourth person in¬ 
tervenes, inseparable from the actors: the referee. The rules are given in the 
text, but how are they to be interpreted? Did the fact warranting sanctions 
—the hand foul—actually occur in such and such circumstances? The referee’s 
decision is without appeal, but players and spectators inevitably judge the 
judge, either silently or noisily. Collective sport, or team competition, pro¬ 
vokes a series of judgments, laudatory or critical, on the part of players about 
each other, of teammate about teammate, of one team about the opposing 
team, of players about the referee, of spectators about the players and the 
referee. All these judgments oscillate from the appreciation of effectiveness 
(he has played well), to the appreciation of correctness (he has respected the 
rules), and the appreciation of team spirit (this team has played according to 
the spirit of the game). Even in sports, everything not strictly forbidden is 
not thereby morally permitted. Lastly, the theory of soccer might envision 
the sport itself in relation to the men who participate in it or to the entire 
society. Is this sport favorable to the physical health or morality of the play¬ 
ers? Should the government support it? 

Thus we find the four levels of conceptualization we have distinguished, 
the schematic arrangement of concepts and systems, the general causes of 
events, the development of the sport or of a particular game, and pragmatic 
or ethical judgments, bearing on behavior within a particular domain or on 
the domain itself considered as a whole. 



Diplomatic or strategic behavior affords certain analogies with sport. It too 
involves both cooperation and competition. Every collectivity finds itself 
among enemies, friends, neutrals or the indifferent. No diplomatic playing 
field is marked off with lines, but there is a diplomatic field on which all the 
participants appear, capable of intervening in case of a generalized conflict. 
The arrangement of the players is not fixed once and for all by rules or 
customary tactics, but we do find certain characteristic groupings of partici¬ 
pants, which constitute so many schematically designed situations. 

Cooperative and competitive, the practice of foreign politics also, by its 
very nature, involves risk. The diplomat and the strategist act—in other words, 
they make decisions before they have assembled all the knowledge desirable 
and acquired certainty. Their action is based on probabilities. It would not 
be reasonable if it rejected risk: it is reasonable insofar as it calculates risk. 
But we can never eliminate the uncertainty inherent in the unpredictability 
of human reactions (what will the other do, whether a general or a states¬ 
man, Hitler or Stalin?), in the secrecy with which states are surrounded, in 
the impossibility of knowing everything before taking a decisive step. The 
“glorious uncertainty of sport” has its equivalent in political action, whether 
violent or non-violent. Let us not imitate the historians who believe that the 
past has always been inevitable, and thus suppress the human dimension of 

The expressions we have used to characterize the sociology (causes of suc¬ 
cess, national characteristics of play) and the history of sport, or of a single 
game, also apply to the sociology and history of international relations. It is 
rational theory and praxiology which differ essentially from one realm to the 
next. Compared to soccer, foreign policy seems strangely indeterminate. The 
goal of the participants is not as simple as merely getting a ball across a white 
line. The rules of diplomatic performance are imperfectly codified, and a 
player may violate them when he finds it to his advantage to do so. There is 
no referee, and even when all the participants claim the right to judge as a 
body (the United Nations), the national actors may not submit to the de¬ 
cisions of this collective referee whose impartiality is not indisputable. If the 
rivalry of nations suggests sport, it is all too often a free-for-all—a catch-as- 
catch-can—that would be the appropriate image. 

More generally, sports have three particular characteristics: the objective 
and the rules of the game are clearly specified; the game is played within a 
fixed space, the number of participants is fixed, and the system, delimited in 
relation to the external world, is structured within itself; action is subject to 
rules of effectiveness and to the decisions of the referee, so that there are 
moral or quasi-moral judgments concerning the spirit in which the partici¬ 
pants play the game itself. Apropos of each of the social sciences, we might 
question if or to what degree the goal and rules are defined, if and to what 
degree the participants are organized into a system, if and to what degree 



individual action is subject to obligations, either of effectiveness or of moral¬ 

Let us turn from sports to economics: every society, consciously or not, has 
an economic problem, and solves it in a particular way. Every society must 
satisfy the needs of its members with limited resources. The disproportion be¬ 
tween desires and goods is not always felt as such. Once a way of life is 
accepted as normal or traditional, a collectivity may aspire to nothing beyond 
what it already possesses. Such a collectivity is poor in, not for, itself. One 
may add a paradox only in appearance—that societies have never been so 
aware of their poverty as in our own day, despite the prodigious increase of 
their wealth. Desires have advanced even more rapidly than resources. The 
limitation of resources seems scandalous once the capacity to produce is— 
mistakenly—regarded as unlimited. 

Economics is a fundamental category of thought, a dimension of collective 
or individual existence. This category is not to be confused with that of 
scarcity or poverty (disproportion between desires and resources). Economics 
as -problem presupposes merely scarcity or poverty: economics as solution 
presupposes that men can master their poverty in various ways, that they 
have the possibility of choosing among different ways of utilizing their re¬ 
sources; in other words, it presupposes the multiplicity of choices which Rob¬ 
inson Crusoe himself was not unaware of on his island. Crusoe disposed of 
his own labor time, he could choose a certain distribution of hours of the day 
between labor and leisure, a certain distribution of labor among consumer 
goods (food) and investments (house). What is true of the individual is 
truer still of the collectivity. Labor force being the primary resource of human 
societies, the multiplicity of possible uses of resources is given from the start. 
As the economy grows more complex, the possibilities of choice multiply and 
goods become increasingly interchangeable; the same object can serve several 
ends and various objects can be used for the same ends. 

Poverty and choice—poverty is the problem faced by collectivities, and a 
particular choice is one solution effectively adopted. These define the eco¬ 
nomic dimension of human existence. Men who ignore poverty because they 
ignore desire are unconscious of the economic dimension. They live as their 
ancestors have lived, as they themselves have always lived. Custom is so strong 
that it excludes dreams, dissatisfaction, desire for progress. There would be a 
post-economic phase if, along with scarcity, the necessity of choice, of pain¬ 
ful labor, should disappear. Trotsky says somewhere that abundance is now 
visible on the horizon of history and that only the petit bourgeois will refuse 
to believe in his radiant future and regard the biblical curse as eternal. A 
post-economic period is conceivable: capacity for production would become 
such that each man could consume according to his will and, out of respect 
for others,, would not take more than his fair share from the whole. 

The soccer player attempts to send the ball into a space delimited by the 
two vertical goal posts linked, two yards above the ground, by a horizontal 



bar. Economic man wants to make the best use of insufficient resources, to 
utilize them so that they supply the maximum of satisfactions. Economists 
have constructed, elaborating various kinds of logic concerning these individ¬ 
ual choices, the marginal theory, which is, even today, the most common 
version of this rational formulation of economic behavior, one that starts with 
individuals and their ranges of preference. 

Although the theory covers the route which proceeds from individual 
choices to total equilibrium, it seems to me logically as well as philosophically 
preferable to start from the collectivity. Indeed, the specific characteristics of 
economic reality are not discernible except on the level of the collectivity. 
Individual ranges of preference may not differ fundamentally within a given 
society, since all the individuals more or less adhere to a common system of 
values. Nonetheless, activities tending to the maximization of individual satis¬ 
factions would be ill-defined if money did not introduce the possibility of a 
rigorous and universally recognizable measurement. African savages rationally 
preferred glass beads to ivory as long as the objects exchanged did not appear 
on the same market and did not each have its price in money. 

Monetary quantification permits the recognition of accounting standards 
for the total economy. Such standards, from the physiocratic table down to 
modem studies of national accounting, do not afford an explanation of 
changes, but constitute the evidence from which economics attempts to grasp 
primary and secondary factors, or those which are determining and those 
which are determined. At the same time, the reciprocity of variables, the in¬ 
terdependence of elements of the economy, becomes evident. To modify 
one price is indirectly to modify all. To reduce or increase investments, to 
reduce or increase rates of interest is, step by step, to act on the national prod¬ 
uct as well as on the distribution of this product among its categories. 

All economic theories, whether micro- or macro-theory, whether liberal or 
socialist in inspiration, emphasize the interdependence of economic variables. 
The theory of equilibrium, as Walras or Pareto would call it, reconstructs 
the whole by starting from individual choices, as it defines a point of equi¬ 
librium that would also be the point of maximization of production and in¬ 
dividual satisfactions (given a certain distribution of income at the start). 
Keynesian theory or the macro-theories tackle the system directly as a unity, 
and attempt to isolate the determining factors that must be brought into play 
to avoid unemployment, raise the national product to its maximum potential, 

Hence the purpose of economic activity, at first glance, appears to be de¬ 
fined: maximization of satisfactions for the individual making rational choices, 
and maximization of monetary resources in the later phase, money being the 
universal intermediary among goods. But this definition leaves room for un¬ 
certainties: at what point, for instance, does the individual prefer leisure 
to the increase of his income? Further, the uncertainty—or, if one prefers, the 
indeterminacy—becomes an essential aspect if we consider the collectivity. 



The collectivity faces an “economic problem”: by a certain organization of 
production, of exchange and of distribution, the collectivity chooses a solu¬ 
tion. This solution involves a degree of cooperation among individuals and a 
degree of competition. Neither the collectivity as a whole nor individuals as 
economic subjects are in situations where one and only one decision is ra¬ 

Maximization of the national product as opposed to reduction of inequali¬ 
ties, maximization of growth as opposed to maintenance of a high level of 
consumption, maximization of cooperation authoritatively imposed by the 
government as opposed to a laissez-faire attitude toward the machinery of 
competition—all societies have these three alternatives, but the choice is not 
a logical consequence that can be deduced from the immanent goal of eco¬ 
nomic activity. Given the plurality of goals ascribed to societies, every eco¬ 
nomic solution, up till now, involves a debit account along with a credit one. 
We need merely invoke duration (what sacrifices must the living accept for 
the sake of posterity?) and the diversity of social groups (what distribution 
results from a certain organization of production?) to prevent any solution of 
an economic problem from being called rationally obligatory under particular 
circumstances. The immanent goal of economic activity does not unequivo¬ 
cally determine either the choice of individuals or the choice of collectivities 
as a whole. 

According to this analysis, what are the modalities of the theory of the 
rational economy? Since the economic problem is fundamental, between the 
phase of unconsciousness and the possible phase of abundance, the theoreti¬ 
cian’s first obligation is to elaborate the major concepts of the economic order 
as such (production, exchange, distribution, consumption, money). 

The theoretician’s second and most important task is to analyze, elaborate 
or construct economic systems. Marginal theorists, Keynesians, specialists in 
econometrics or in game theory, and specialists in national income account¬ 
ing, whatever their differences, all attempt, with equal success, to isolate the 
intelligible texture of the economic whole, the reciprocal relations of the 
variables. Controversies have no bearing on this texture itself, as expressed in 
uniform standards of measurement: no one doubts the accounting equivalents 
for saving and investment, but this equivalence is an ex post facto statistical 
result, and the mechanics by which it is obtained are complex, often obscure. 
The point is whether and under what circumstances excess savings may be 
the cause of unemployment, whether and under what circumstances savings 
do not provoke reactions likely to end unemployment, whether and under 
what circumstances a balance without full employment is possible. 

In other terms, neither the Walrasian design of equilibrium nor the modern 
designs of national accounting can be refuted as designs. On the other hand, 
the models of unemployment or of crisis drawn from theories are contestable 
insofar as they imply an explanation or an anticipation of events. The “models 
of crisis”—relations determined among the diverse variables of the system—are 



comparable to the “patterns of situation” in a game, with this difference, that 
individuals as economic subjects are in danger of not knowing the exact situ¬ 
ation created by the relations among variables, whereas the soccer players see 
the exact position of their opponents and their teammates. 

Economic theory, as we have just sketched it, attempts to isolate the 
economic ensemble—the total behavior which actually solves, whether well 
or badly, the problem of poverty—and to emphasize the rationality of this 
behavior, that is, choices in the use of limited resources, each of which in¬ 
volves many practices. Every theory, whatever its inspiration, substitutes 
economic subjects for concrete individuals, whose behavior is simplified and, 
so to speak, rationalized. It reduces to a small number of determinants the 
multiple circumstances that influence economic activity. It regards certain 
causes as exogenous, without the distinction between endogenous and exog¬ 
enous factors being constant from one period to the next or from one author 
to the next. Sociology is an indispensable intermediary between theory and 
fact. The passage from theory toward sociology can be achieved in various 

The behavior of economic subjects—managers, workers, consumers—is 
never determined unequivocally by the notion of one maximum: the choice 
of an increase in income or a diminution of effort depends on psychological 
data that cannot be reduced to a general formula. More generally, the actual 
behavior of managers or consumers is influenced by the ways of life, the 
moral or metaphysical conceptions, and the ideologies or values of a collectiv¬ 
ity. Hence there exists a sociology or an economic psychosociology whose 
goal is to comprehend the behavior of economic subjects by comparing it 
with theoretical schemata or by specifying the choices actually made be¬ 
tween the various kinds of maximization elaborated by theory. 

Sociology can also attempt to relate the economic system to the whole of 
society, to follow the reciprocal action which the various realms of action 
exercise upon each other. 

Finally, sociology can take as its goal a historical typology of economies. 
Theory determines the functions which must be fulfilled in any economy. 
Measurement of values, conservation of values, distribution of collective re¬ 
sources among the different occupations, matching products with consumer 
desires—all these functions are always fulfilled in fact, whether well or badly. 
Each regime is characterized by the mode in which the indispensable func¬ 
tions are fulfilled. In particular, to confine ourselves to our own period, each 
regime grants a greater or lesser share to central planning or to the mecha¬ 
nisms of the market: the former represents cooperative actions submitted to a 
superior authority, the latter a form of competitive action (competition, con¬ 
forming to rules, assures the distribution of income among individuals, and 
produces results which have not been conceived, determined, or desired by 

The economic historian is indebted to the theoretician who furnishes him 



the instruments of understanding (concepts, functions, models), and to the 
sociologist who suggests the framework within which events occur and who 
helps him to grasp the different social types. As for the experts, the minister 
of state or the philosopher—that is, those who advise, decide or act—they 
need to know the rational models, the determinants of the system and the 
recurrent circumstances. Further, in order to decide for or against a regime, 
and not for or against a given measure within a regime, we must know 
first the probable merits and defects of each regime, and next what is re¬ 
quired of the economy: what is the good society and what influence do 
certain economic institutions exert upon life? Praxiology, which necessarily 
follows theory, sociology and history, again brings into question the premises 
of this cumulative comprehension: what is the human meaning of the eco¬ 
nomic dimension? 

The goal of economic action is not so simple as the goal of a sport, but 
although there are several notions of a maximum, the theories can reconstruct 
the behavior of economic subjects by defining in a certain way the maximum 
aimed at and, subsequently, the implications of rationality. The economic 
system is less rigorously structured than the system constituted by a game 
of soccer: neither the physical limits nor the participants in the economic 
system are as precisely determined, but the reciprocal solidarity among the 
variables of the economic system, the standards of measure, permit, once a 
hypothesis of rationality is admitted, the comprehension of the total texture 
starting from the elements. As for the precepts of action, they claim to be 
rational on the level of theory, reasonable on the level of fact. They are 
devoted to effectiveness when an unequivocal goal has been set, to morality 
when it is a question of respecting the rules of competition, and to ultimate 
values when we question ourselves about the economic dimension of life, 
about work and leisure, abundance and power. 

[ 3 ] 

Let us turn back to foreign policy and inquire how the levels of con¬ 
ceptualization are characterized in this domain. 

All human behavior, insofar as it is not a simple reflex or the act of a 
madman, is comprehensible. But there are manifold modes of intelligibility. 
The behavior of the student who has just attended a lecture because it is cold 
outside or because he has nothing else to do between two classes is com¬ 
prehensible. It can be called either “logical” (Pareto’s expression) or “rational” 
(Max Weber’s), if it is a means of avoiding the cold or of whiling away an 
idle hour pleasantly enough. But it does not present the same characteristics 
as the behavior of the student who attends a lecture because he thinks he 
may be asked about the subject in an examination, or the behavior of the 
manager who makes each of his decisions by referring to the balance-sheet 



at the end of the year, or the behavior of the forward who keeps back in 
order to disconcert the opposing center, who is guarding him. 

What are the traits common to the behavior of these three actors—student, 
manager, player? It is not the mode of psychological determination. The 
manager may be personally greedy or, quite the contrary, indifferent to gain. 
The student who establishes the courses he will take according to the time at 
his disposal or the likelihood of the examination questions may like or detest 
the subjects he is studying, may want a diploma as a matter of conceit, or 
because he must earn his living. Similarly, the soccer player may be an 
amateur or a professional, may dream of glory or of wealth, but he is bound 
by the requirements of effectiveness which result from the game itself. In 
other words, these actions involve, more or less consciously, a calculation, a 
combination of means with a view to an end, the acceptance of a risk varying 
with certain probabilities. This calculation itself is dictated by both a hierarchy 
of preferences and by circumstances, the latter possessing, in both game and 
economy, an intelligible texture. 

The behavior of the diplomat or the strategist presents certain of these 
characteristics, although according to the definition given above, this be¬ 
havior has neither a goal as determined as that of the soccer player’s or even 
an objective, in certain conditions rationally definable by a maximum, like 
those of economic subjects. The behavior of the diplomat-strategist, in effect, 
is specifically dominated by the risk of war, confronting adversaries in an 
incessant rivalry in which each side reserves the right to resort to the ultima 
ratio, that is, to violence. The theory of a sport is worked out starting from 
the goal (to send the ball across the line). The theory of economics, too, 
refers to a goal through the intermediary of the notion of maximization 
(although various modalities of this maximum are conceivable). The theory 
of international relations starts from the ‘plurality of autonomous centers of 
decision, hence from the risk of war, and from this risk it deduces the 
necessity of the calculation of means. 

Certain theoreticians have tried to find the equivalent of the rational goal 
of sport or economics for international relations. A single goal, victory, ex¬ 
claims the na'ive general, forgetting that military victory always affords satis¬ 
faction for amour-propre, but not always political benefits. A single impera¬ 
tive, national interest, solemnly proclaims the theoretician, hardly less naive 
than the general, as if adding the adjective national to the concept of interest 
were enough to make it unequivocal. International politics is a struggle for 
power and security, declares another theoretician, as if there were never any 
contradiction between the two, as if collective persons, unlike individuals, 
were rationally obliged to prefer life to the reasons for living. 

We shall have occasion to discuss these theoretical endeavors during the 
course of this work. At the outset, let us confine ourselves to stating that 
diplomatic-strategic behavior does not have an obvious objective, but that the 
risk of war obliges it to calculate forces or means. As we shall try to show 



in the first part of this book, the alternatives of peace and war permit the 
elaboration of the fundamental concepts of international relations. 

The same alternatives permit us to express "the problem of foreign policy” 
as we have expressed the problem of economics. For thousands of years, men 
have lived in closed societies which were never entirely subject to a superior 
authority. Each collectivity had to count chiefly on itself to survive, but 
it also had—or should have had—to contribute to the task common even to 
enemy cities, exposed to the risk of perishing together by dint of constantly 
fighting each other. 

The double problem of individual and collective survival has never been 
lastingly solved by any civilization. It could only be definitively solved by a 
universal state or by the rule of law. One might call pre-diplomatic the 
age in which collectivities did not maintain regular relations with each other, 
and post-diplomatic the age of a universal state which would allow only for 
internecine combats. As long as each collectivity must think of its own safety 
at the same time as of that of the diplomatic system or of the human race, 
diplomatic-strategic behavior will never be rationally determined, even in 

This relative indeterminacy does not keep us from elaborating a rational 
type of theory in Part One, proceeding from fundamental concepts (strategy 
and diplomacy, means and ends, power and force, power, glory and idea) 
to systems and types of systems. Diplomatic systems are neither spread out 
on the map like a playing field nor unified by standards of measure, and 
by the interdependence of variables like economic systems, but each partici¬ 
pant knows roughly in relation to which adversaries and which partners he 
must situate himself. 

Such a theory, producing models of diplomatic systems, distinguishing 
typical situations on a generalized level, imitates economic theory, which 
elaborates models of crisis or unemployment. But, lacking a single goal of 
diplomatic behavior, the rational analysis of international relations cannot 
b e developed i nto an inclusive theory. 

Chapter Vlj dedicated to a typology of peace and war, serves as a transi¬ 

tion between Part I and Part II, between the interpretation growing out of 
the conduct of foreign policy and the sociological explanation of the course 
of events, drawn from material or social causes. Sociology seeks the circum¬ 
stances which influence the stakes of the conflicts among states, the goals 
which the participants choose, the fortunes of nations and empires. Theory 
reveals the intelligible texture of a social ensemble; sociology shows how the 
determinants (space, number, resources) and the subjects (nations, regimes, 
civilizations), of international relations vary. 

Part III of the book, concerned with present circumstances, aims first at 
testing the method of analysis elaborated in the first two parts. But in certain 
respects, because of the worldwide extension of the diplomatic field and the 
invention of thermonuclear weapons, the present circumstances are unique 



and unprecedented. They involve situations which lend themselves to 
analysis by "model.” In this sense Part III, at a lower level of abstraction, 
contains both a rationalizing theory and a sociological theory of diplomacy in 
the global and thermonuclear age. 

At the same time it constitutes a necessary introduction to the last part, 
which is both normative and philosophical, and in which the initial hypoth¬ 
eses are re-examined. 

Economics disappears with the disappearance of scarcity. Under conditions 
of abundance, the problem becomes one of organization, not of economic 
calculation. Similarly, war would cease being an instrument of politics the 
day it involved the mutual suicide of the belligerents. The capacity for indus¬ 
trial production restores some relevance to the utopia of abundance, the de¬ 
structive capacity of weapons revives the dreams of eternal peace. 

All societies have known the “problem of international relations”; and 
many times cultures have been destroyed because they were unable to limit 
wars. In our day not only one culture but all of humanity would be threat¬ 
ened by a hyperbolic war. The prevention of such a war becomes for all 
participants in the diplomatic game a goal as evident as the defense of purely 
national interests. 

According to the profound and perhaps prophetic view of Immanuel Kant, 
humanity must travel the bloody road of war to have access one day to peace. 
It is through history that the repression of natural violence is achieved, the 
education of man to reason. 



Concepts and Systems 

Taylor &. Francis 

Taylor &. Francis Group 

chapter I 

Strategy and Diplomacy 

On the Unity of Foreign Policy 

‘War ... is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to 
fulfill our will-SThis famous definition will serve as our point of departure: 
it is no less valid today than at the moment is was written. War, insofar 
as it is a social act, presupposes the conflicting wills of politically organized 
collectivities. Each seeks to prevail over the other. “Physical force ... is 
therefore the means; the compulsory submission of the enemy to our will is 
the ultimate object.I 

I. Absolute War and Real Wars 

From this definition, Clausewitz deduces the tendency of war to escalate 
or even to become total. The basic reason for this is what we might call the 
dialectics of the contest. 

“War is an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds; as one side 
dictates the law to the other, there arises a sort of reciprocal action, which 
logically must lead to an extreme.tH Any belligerent that refuses to resort 
to certain brutalities must fear that the adversary will gain the advantage by 
abandoning all scruples. Wars among civilized nations are not necessarily 
less cruel than wars among savage tribes. For the basic cause of war is the 
hostile intent, not the sentiment of hostility. In general, given the hostile 
intent on both sides, passion and hatred soon animate the combatants, but in 
theory a major war without hatred is conceivable. The most one can say 
apropos of civilized peoples is that “intelligence exercises greater influence 
on their mode of carrying on War, and has taught them more effectual means 
of applying force than these rude acts of mere instinct.’H The fact remains 
that the desire to destroy the enemy, inherent in the concept of war, has not 
been hindered or repressed by the progress of civilization. 



j^lbid., p. 4. 

Hi bid. 

I, I, p. 



The goal of military operations, in the abstract, is to disarm the adversary. 
Yet since “the enemy is to be reduced to submission by an act of War, he 
must either be positively disarmed or placed in such a position that he is 
threatened with it.” But the adversary is not an “inert mass.” War is the 
impact of two living forces. “As long as the enemy is not defeated, he may 
defeat me; ... he will dictate the law to me as I did to him.’fH 

War is won only when the adversary submits to our will. If necessary, we 
measure the means at his disposal and determine our own effort accordingly. 
But the will to resist cannot be measured. The adversary proceeds in the 
same fashion, and each side augments its preparations to allow for the hostile 
intent, so that the competition once again leads to extremes. 

This dialectic of the contest is purely abstract; it does not apply to real 
wars as they unfold in history, but reveals what would happen in an instan¬ 
taneous duel between adversaries defined solely by reciprocal hostility and 
by the will to conquer. At the same time, this abstract dialectic reminds us 
what might actually occur each time passions or circumstances bring a histori¬ 
cal struggle close to the ideal model of combat and, thereby, of absolute war. 

In the real world “war [does not become] a completely isolated act, which 
arises suddenly, and is in no way connected with the previous history of the 
combatant states.® The adversaries know each other in advance, they form 
an approximate idea of their respective resources, even of their respective 
intent. The forces of each of the adversaries are never entirely mustered. The 
fate of nations is not staked on a single momentUlThe intentions of a vic¬ 
torious adversary do not always involve an irreparable disaster for the van¬ 
quished. As soon as these various considerations intervene—the substitution of 
real adversaries for the abstract concept of the enemy, the duration of opera¬ 
tions, the apparent intentions of the belligerents, the accumulation and use 
of every means in order to conquer and disarm the enemy—it becomes a 
venturesome action, a calculation of probabilities varying with the informa¬ 
tion accessible to the partner-adversaries in the political game. 

For war is a game. It requires both courage and calculation; calculation 
never excludes risk, and at every level the acceptance of danger is alternately 
manifested by prudence and audacity. “From the outset there is a play of 
possibilities, probabilities, good and bad luck, which spreads about with all 
the coarse and fine threads of its web, and makes War of all branches of 
human activity the most like a gambling game.{l 

Yet, “War is always a serious means for a serious object.” The initial ele¬ 
ment, animal as much as human, is animosity, which we must consider a 
natural blind impulse. Belligerent action itself, the second element, involves 

j’lbid., p. j. 

® Ibid., p. 7. 

ilPreparation for a single engagement that would decide everything leads to absolute 
war, Clausewitz says. In the twentieth century, modem weapons risk creating precisely 
this situation. This has never been the case until the present. 

[Hlbid., p. 20. 


2 3 

an interaction of probabilities and risks which makes war a “work of a free 
enthusiasm.” But a third element must be added to these, one which ulti¬ 
mately dominates them: war is a political action, it rises out of a political 
situation and results from a political motive. It belongs by nature to pure 
understanding because it is an instrument of policy. The emotional element 
involves chiefly the people, the problematical element the commander and his 
army, and the intellectual element the government; and it is this latter 
element that is decisive and that must control the whole. 

Thus Clausewitz’s famous formula—“War is not merely a political act, but 
also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carry¬ 
ing out of the same by other means’El-is not the expression of a bellicose 
philosophy, but a simple observation of fact: war is not an end in itself, 
military victory is not the goal in itself. Commerce between nations does not 
cease the day guns begin to speak; the belligerent phase takes its place in a 
continuity of relations always controlled by the collectivities’ intentions to¬ 
ward each other. 

The subordination of war to policy as a means to an end, implicit in 
Clausewitz’s formula, establishes and justifies the distinction of absolute war 
and real wars..Escalation is the more to be feared, and real wars risk coming 
closer to absolute war, the more violence escapes the control of the chief of 
state. Policy seems to vanish when it takes the destruction of the enemy 
army as its single goal. Even in this case, war assumes a form that results 
from political intentions. Whether or not policy is visible in the belligerent 
action, the latter remains dominated by policy if we define policy as “the 
intelligence of the personified State.” It is still policy—i.e., the total considera¬ 
tion of all circumstances by statesmen—that rightly or wrongly decides to 
assume as its sole objective the destruction of the enemy’s armed forces, 
without regard for ulterior objectives, without reflection as to the probable 
consequences of victory itself. 

Clausewitz is a theoretician of absolute war, not a doctrinaire of total 
war or militarism, just as Walras is a theoretician of equilibrium, not a 
doctrinaire of liberalism. Conceptual analysis, concerned with isolating the 
essence of the human act, has been mistakenly confused with the determina¬ 
tion of an objective. Clausewitz, it is true, sometimes seems to admire the 
war that tends to realize its own nature completely, and to reserve his con¬ 
tempt for the imperfect wars of the eighteenth century in which maneuvers 
and negotiations reduced the combatants’ engagements, their brutality and 
fur)', to a minimum. But granted that these sentiments appear on occasion, 
they express simple emotions. When confronted with war driven to its ex¬ 
treme, Clausewitz feels a kind of sacred horror, a fascination comparable to 
that wakened by cosmic catastrophes. The war in which each adversary pro¬ 
ceeds to the absolute of violence in order to vanquish the enemy’s will, 

0Z bid.., p. 23. 



which stubbornly resists, is in Clausewitz’s eyes both awe-inspiring and hor¬ 
rible. Whenever great interests are at stake, war will approach its absolute 
form. As a philosopher, he is neither delighted nor indignant. As a theoreti¬ 
cian of rational action, he reminds leaders of war and peace of the principle 
both must respect: the primacy of policy, war being merely an instrument in 
the service of politically determined goals, a moment or an aspect of relations 
among states, each of which is obliged to submit to the political realm, i.e., 
the perception of the collectivity’s lasting interests. 

Let us agree to call strategy the conduct of military operations as a whole, 
and diplomacy the conduct of relations with other political units. Strategy 
and diplomacy will both be subordinate to politics, that is, to the conception 
on the part of the collectivity or its leaders of the “national interest.” In 
peacetime, politics makes use of diplomatic means, not excluding recourse to 
arms, at least when threatened. In wartime, politics does not exclude diplo¬ 
macy, since the latter conducts relations with allies and neutrals, and con¬ 
tinues to deal tacitly with the enemy, threatening defeat, or offering a pos¬ 
sibility of peace. 

Here we are considering the “political unit” as an actor, enlightened by 
intelligence and prompted by will. Every state has relations with other states; 
as long as the states remain in peace, they must somehow manage to live 
together. Unless they resort to violence, they attempt to convince each other. 
The day they fight, they attempt to constrain each other. In this sense, 
diplomacy might be called the art of convincing without using force (con- 
vainer e), and strategy the art of vanquishing at the least cost ( vainere). 
But constraint, too, is a means of convincing. A demonstration of force 
causes the adversary to yield, symbolizing rather than actually imposing con¬ 
straint. The side possessing a superiority of weapons in peacetime convinces 
its ally, rival or adversary without having to make use of such weapons. 
Conversely, the state which has acquired a reputation for equity or modera¬ 
tion has a better chance of achieving its goals without proceeding to the 
extremity of military victory. Even in wartime it will convince more than it 
will constrain. 

The distinction between diplomacy and strategy is an entirely relative one. 
These two terms are complementary aspects of the single art of politics—the 
art of conducting relations with other states so as to further the “national 
interest.” If, by definition, strategy, the conduct of miliary operations, does 
not function when the operations do not take place, the military means are 
an integral part of diplomatic method. Conversely, words, notes, promises, 
guarantees and threats belong to the chief of state’s wartime panoply with 
regard to allies, neutrals, and even today’s enemies, that is, to the allies of 
yesterday or tomorrow. 

The complementary duality of the art of convincing and the art of con¬ 
straining reflects a still more essential duality which Clausewitz’s initial 
definition reveals: war is a test of will. Human insofar as it is a test of will, 



war by its nature involves a psychological element best illustrated by the 
celebrated formula: he is not conquered who dares not admit defeat. Na¬ 
poleon could only win, Clausewitz writes, if Tsar Alexander admitted he 
was beaten after the taking of Moscow. If Alexander did not lose courage, 
Napoleon, though apparently the victor at Moscow, was already virtually 
defeated. Napoleon’s plan of war was the only one possible, but it was based 
on a gamble which Alexander’s steadfastness caused the emperor of the 
French to lose. The English are beaten, Hitler howled in July 1940, but 
they’re too stupid to realize it. Not to admit they were defeated was indeed 
the first condition of final success for the English. Whether it was courage 
or lack of awareness is of little account: what mattered was that the English 
wanted to resist. 

In absolute war, in which extreme violence leads to the disarmament or 
the destruction of one of the adversaries, the psychological element ulti¬ 
mately disappears. But this operates as a limiting case. All real wars bring 
into conflict collectivities which are united in expressing one will. In this 
regard, they are all psychological wars. 

1. Strategy and the Goal of War 

The relation of strategy and policy is expressed by a double formula: “War 
is to harmonize entirely with the political views and policy, to accommodate 
itself to the means available for War .’0 In a sense, the two parts of the 
formula might seem contradictory, since the first subordinates the conduct 
of war to political intentions and the second makes political intentions depend 
on the available means. But Clausewitz’s thought and the logic of action 
leave no room for doubt: policy cannot determine the goals apart from the 
means at its disposal, and, further, “the political element does not sink deep 
into the details of War. Vedettes are not planted, patrols do not make their 
rounds from political considerations; but small as is its influence in this 
respect, it is great in the formation of a plan for a whole War, or a campaign, 
and often even for a battle.Examples will illustrate the scope of these 
abstract propositions. 

The conduct of war requires the determination of a strategic plan: "every 
War should he viewed above all things according to the -probability of its 
character, and its leading features, as they are to be deduced from the political 
forces and proportions .’ Hi In 1914 all the belligerents were mistaken as to 
the nature of the war they were about to wage. On neither side had the 
general staffs or the ministries conceived or prepared mobilization of indus¬ 
tries or populations. Neither the Central Powers nor the Allies had counted 
on a prolonged conflict whose result would be decided by the superior 

Mlhicl., VIII, 6, p. 127. 

OlbuZ., p. 123. 
tllhii., p. 125. 



resources of one of the two camps. The generals had rushed into a “fresh and 
joyous” war, convinced that the first engagements would be decisive as they 
had been in 1870. The strategy of annihilation would produce victory, and 
the statesmen of the winning side would dictate the terms of peace to the 
vanquished enemy. 

When the French victory on the Marne and the stability of the eastern 
and western fronts had dissipated the illusion of a short war, policy should 
have reasserted itself, since it is effaced only at that moment of belligerent 
paroxysm when violence rages without restraint and each of the belligerents 
is concerned only with being physically the stronger. Of course, policy did 
not cease to function between 1914 and 1918, but, particularly on the Allied 
side, it seems to have had no other goal than to sustain the war itself. The 
victory that the Allies had first sought by a strategy of annihilation they later 
attempted through a strategy of attrition. But at no time did they seriously 
consider the goals they might have been able to attain without total victory; 
disarming the enemy and a dictated rather than negotiated peace became 
their supreme war goals. The war itself approached its absolute form insofar 
as the statesmen abdicated in favor of the army chiefs and substituted for 
political goals, which they were incapable of determining, a strictly military 
goal, the destruction of the enemy armies. 

Perhaps this collapse of policy was inevitable under the circumstances. 
Would Germany ever have renounced Alsace-Lorraine unless it had been 
obliged to by the defeat? Could French public opinion ever have been forced 
to accept a compromise peace, with neither annexation nor indemnities, 
after so many sacrifices had been imposed upon the people and so many 
promises lavished by the government? The secret treaties concluded among 
the Allies sanctioned so many revenges and recorded so many solemn promises 
that any impulse toward negotiations without victory risked dissolving the 
fragile coalition of the future victors. Finally, hostilities themselves created 
a new, ineffaceable fact which upset previous conditions: the status of all 
Europe seemed jeopardized, and statesmen did not believe that the return to 
the status quo ante afforded a likelihood of stability. 

Perhaps major wars are precisely those which, by reason of the passions 
they release, ultimately escape the men who have the illusion of controlling 
them. Retrospectively, the observer does not always perceive the conflict of 
interests that would have justified the passions and excluded the compromise. 
Perhaps, as I am tempted to believe, it is the very nature of industrialized 
warfare which ends by communicating hatred and fury to the masses and 
inspiring statesmen with the desire to disrupt the map of the old continent. 
The fact is that the first war of the century illustrates the transition toward 
the absolute form of a war whose political stake the belligerents are incapable 
of specifying. 

The substitution of the military objective—victor)'—for the objectives of 
peace is still more strikingly evident in the Second World War. General 



Giraud, a soldier who had not given much thought to Clausewitz, repeated 
in 1942: a single goal, victory. But it was more serious that President Roose¬ 
velt, though he did not coin this phrase, acted as though he believed it. The 
fastest possible destruction of the enemy’s armed forces became the supreme 
imperative to which the conduct of operations was subordinated. By de¬ 
manding unconditional surrender, a civilian war leader naively bore witness 
to his incomprehension of the relations between strategy and policy. 

Unconditional surrender corresponded to the logic of the War of Secession. 
What had become the stake of the war was the existence of the United States, 
the prohibition of the states from leaving the Union. The Union victory 
involved the annihilation of the Confederacy. The demand for unconditional 
surrender had a rational meaning, whether it concerned the political leaders 
of the Confederacy or General Lee, commander of the last Southern armies. 
There was nothing similar in the case of Germany: neither the Soviets nor 
the Americans intended to suppress the existence of Germany as a state. The 
temporary suspension of this existence involved as many disadvantages as 
advantages for the victors. In any case, by assuming the destruction of the 
German armed forces and the unconditional surrender of the Reich as its 
sole objective, strategy laid itself open to three criticisms. 

It is admitted that it is better to win with as few losses as possible (the 
formula, in strategy, has a significance analogous to that of the lowest price 
in economics). The insistence on unconditional surrender incited the German 
people to a desperate resistance. The American leaders declared they wanted 
to avoid the repetition of what had occurred in 1918-19, the German pro¬ 
tests against the violation of promises contained in President Wilson’s “Four¬ 
teen Points.” As a matter of fact, these protests had counted for little or 
nothing in the failure of the Versailles Treaty. The Allied victory of 1918 had 
been sterile because the war itself had released revolutionary forces and 
because the English and American governments did not want to defend the 
status they had helped establish. By suggesting the fate that would have 
been reserved for a conquered Germany, the Americans would not have lost 
their freedom of maneuver and would have allowed themselves an additional 
chance of conquering without proceeding to the last extremity of violence. 

The manner of achieving military victory inevitably influences the course 
of events. It was not a matter of indifference in 1944 whether Europe was 
liberated from the east, the south, or the west. It is no use speculating on 
what would have happened had the English and American armies landed in 
the Balkans. Was such a plan even possible? What would have been Stalin’s 
reaction? It remains a mistake, on the theoretical level, that the American 
decision was dictated by the exclusive concern to destroy the major part of 
the German army and that consideration of the political consequences of one 
method or another was regarded by Roosevelt and his advisers as an un¬ 
warranted intrusion of politics into the realm of strategy. 

Finally, any conduct of a war, within a coalition, must take into account 



potential rivalries among allies, simultaneous with actual hostilities against 
the enemy. There is, I believe, a radical distinction between permanent 
allies and occasional allies. We may consider as permanent allies those states 
that, whatever the conflict of some of their interests, do not conceive, in the 
foreseeable future, that they can be in opposite camps. Great Britain and 
the United States are, in the twentieth century, permanent allies, the En¬ 
glish political leaders having wisely decided that once England lost the rule 
of the sea, the pax Americana was the only acceptable substitute for the 
pax Britannica. France and Great Britain, after 1914, should also have con¬ 
sidered each other as permanent allies. Great Britain should have regarded 
a temporary and fragile excess of French power with irritation perhaps, but 
without distress or resentment. The reinforcement of a permanent ally 
should not arouse jealousy or alarm. 

The reinforcement of an occasional ally, on the contrary, is, as such, a 
long-term threat. Occasional allies, in fact, have no bond other than a com¬ 
mon hostility toward an enemy, a hostility capable of inspiring sufficient fear 
to overcome the rivalries that yesterday opposed and tomorrow will oppose 
again the temporarily allied states. Moreover, occasional allies, on a deeper 
level, may be permanent enemies : by this we mean states that are committed 
to conflict because of their ideology or their position on the diplomatic 
chessboard. Roosevelt, refusing to conduct the war in relation to the postwar 
period as well, dreaming of a tripartite (or bipartite) directorate of the 
universe, denouncing the French and British empires rather than the Soviet 
Empire, mistook an occasional ally for a permanent one and lost sight of the 
essential hostility hidden beneath a temporary cooperation. 

The disastrous consequences of hyperbolic war were, after the fact, at¬ 
tributed in part to the obsession with military victory at any cost and by any 
means. Perhaps the West’s political defeats, twice following the triumph of 
arms (a defeat caused the first time by the loser’s attempt to gain revenge, and 
the second time by the excessive reinforcement of the occasional ally but 
permanent enemy), helped make statesmen aware of the primacy of politics. 
The war in Korea offers a contrary, almost pure, example of a war waged 
always as a function of politics and never with a view to military victory 
alone. When General MacArthur proclaimed: “There is no substitute for 
victory,’® he seemed to be adopting the concept that had been Roosevelt’s, 
assuming as his goal the destruction of the enemy’s armed forces and a peace 
dictated after the latter’s disarmament. 

President Truman and his advisers hesitated as to their political objective. 
Was the goal to be only that of repulsing North Korean aggression and re¬ 
establishing the status quo ante, that is, the partition of Korea at the 38th 
Parallel, or the unification of the two Korean states in conformity with a 

iUlf victory does not mean military victory here, the phrase is no more than a sen¬ 
tentious truism. 


2 9 

United Nations decision? Naturally the American leaders would have pre¬ 
ferred the second objective to the first, but contrary to what had happened 
during the two majors wars, they did not start with the imperative of military 
victory, deducing the logical consequences (total mobilization, recruiting of 
allies, pitiless combat, etc.); they started with a different imperative (not to 
transform the local war into a general one), and they sought objectives 
accessible within the framework of refusal to enlarge the conflict. 

After the landing at Inchon and the destruction of the North Korean 
armies, President Truman, following the advice of General MacArthur, who 
did not believe the Chinese would intervene, took the risk of crossing the 38th 
Parallel. The intervention of the Chinese “volunteers” involved the first ex¬ 
tension of the hostilities. China became a non-official belligerent, but the 
American leaders once again took as their goal the limitation of the conflict, 
with the limitation of the theater of operation being its spatial projection and 
in a sense its symbol. Again, and finally, the question raised in the spring of 
1951 was that of the objectives accessible without the war’s amplification. 
Soon even this question was abandoned and the American leaders, renouncing 
a local or partial victory, had no ambition beyond obtaining a peace which 
was virtually equivalent to a return to the status quo ante. 

Who would the winner be? The Americans, because they had repulsed 
the North Korean aggression? The Chinese, because they had repulsed the 
American attempt to liquidate the People’s Republic of North Korea? Not 
having been beaten by the world’s first-ranking power, the Chinese had 
gained in prestige. But the Americans had confirmed the value of the guaran¬ 
tees they had distributed all over the world, and given striking proof that they 
would not tolerate open aggressions (crossing of frontiers by regular armies). 
It is not established that the American desire for the conflict’s limitation 
stood in the way of local military successes (with two or three extra divisions, 
the Eighth Army might have been able, not to disarm Communist China, but 
to defeat the Chinese “volunteers"). 

The contrast between the essentially political conduct of the Korean War 
and the essentially military conduct of both world wars cannot he explained 
by human fallibility alone. The conduct of the Second World War was es¬ 
sentially political—i.e., dictated by consideration of the consequences remote 
from the scene of hostilities and of victory —on the Soviet side. It is on the 
American side that no attempt was made to discover whether the world 
resulting from a total military victory would correspond to the lasting interests 
of the United States. It is obviously not proved that the adoption of such a 
line of thought would have sufficed to avoid the deplorable effects of the 
victory—that is, the excessive reinforcement of the occasional ally but perma¬ 
nent enemy, the excessive weakening of the present enemy but future ally 
confronting the ally that had become too powerful. The nature of each war 
depends on many circumstances which the strategist must understand but 
which he is not always in a position to modify. 



It is possible that after 1915 the First World War had to follow its own 
course to the end, the chiefs of state on either side being unable to formulate 
and make their peoples accept the terms of a compromise peace. It is possible 
that with or without unconditional surrender Hitler would have succeeded 
in sweeping the German people to the twilight of the gods of race and blood. 
It is possible that with or without the Yalta agreement, the Soviet Union 
would have intervened in the Far East and reaped the fruits of the victory won 
by the American forces. The fact remains that neither in Europe nor in Asia 
did American strategists subordinate the conduct of operations against the 
enemy and of relations with the occasional ally to a consideration of the 
objectives they wished to achieve by the war. The strategists did not know 
which Europe, which Asia would correspond to American interests. They 
did not know if Japan or Germany was the enemy, or only a certain Japan, a 
certain German)'. 

It is not enough to determine the objective, the ally, the enemy, in order 
to profit by the victory. If the intelligence of the state has not clearly 
determined its goals, and discerned the true nature of enemy and ally alike, 
the triumph of weapons will only by accident be an authentic victory, that is, 
a political one. 

3. To Win or Not to Lose 

The choice of a strategy depends on both the goals of war and the available 
means. We have just analyzed extreme examples of wars waged with a view 
to military success alone, or with a view to avoiding the extension of the 
conflict. But it is within these extremes that we find most of the real wars in 
which a strategy is chosen with regard to both military possibilities and 

Perhaps the supreme alternative, on the level of strategy, is “to win or not 
to lose.” A strategy can aim at decisively conquering the enemy’s armed 
forces in order to dictate the terms of a victorious peace to the disarmed 
enemy. But when the relation of forces excludes such an eventuality, the 
war leaders can still propose not to lose, by discouraging the superior coali¬ 
tion’s intention of conquering. 

German authors like H. Delbriick have found the ideal example of such 
a strategy in the Seven Years’ War. Frederick II nursed no illusions of con¬ 
quering the Austro-Russian army, but he counted on holding out long 
enough for his adversaries’ morale to disintegrate, and for the Alliance to fall 
apart. We know how the death of an emperor actually provoked a reversal 
of Russian policy. The recollection of this piece of luck was so deeply en¬ 
graved in the German memory that Goebbels, learning of Roosevelt’s death, 
believed that the miracle of Frederick II would be repeated: was not the 
alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union still more contrary 
to nature than that of St. Petersburg and Vienna? 

Other, more immediate examples will illustrate the problem’s lasting na- 



ture. Given the relation of forces, what must be the strategist’s goal? This 
was the basic question, by 1915-16, that divided German generals and states¬ 
men. Were the Central Powers to choose as their goal a victory that would 
permit them to dictate the clauses of the peace treaty? Or, given the superi¬ 
ority of forces that the Allies were acquiring, should the Central Powers 
renounce victory and limit their ambitions to a compromise peace based on 
the recognition by each side of its incapacity to prevail over the other deci¬ 

Contrary to what most Frenchmen believed, the Verdun offensive, in the 
framework of General von Falkenhayn’s strategy, aimed at wearing down, 
rather than defeating, the French army. The German command intended to 
weaken the latter until, by the spring and summer of 1916, it would be 
incapable of any major undertaking. Unconcerned about the west, the Ger¬ 
man army could take the offensive in the east and score successes there 
which would convince the Allies to come to terms, even if they were not 
obliged to. 

The Successor group, Hindenburg-Ludendorff, chose, on the contrary, 
the other alternative. Until the spring of 1918 the German armies tried to 
force the decision. Russia had been put hors de combat in 1917; American 
troops were flowing into Europe; the balance of forces, still favorable at the 
beginning of 1918, was becoming increasingly unfavorable. The German 
general staff tried to win before the intervention of a still intact American 
army with inexhaustible forces. Flistorians and theoreticians (in particular 
FI. Delbriick) have speculated whether such a strategy of destruction didn’t, 
by 1917, constitute an error. Shouldn’t the generals have economized their 
means, limited the German losses in order to hold out as long as possible in 
the hope that the Allies would weary of the struggle and be content with a 
negotiated peace? Renouncing the effort to force a decision, strategy would 
have tried, by defensive successes, to convince the enemy as well to renounce 
his ambition of victory. 

Another more striking example of this dialectic of victory and non-defeat 
is that of Japan in 1941. How could the Japanese Empire, engaged for years 
in an endless war against China, launch itself into the assault of every 
European position in southeast Asia, simultaneously challenging Great Brit¬ 
ain and the United States, when it produced scarcely seven million tons of 
steel a year and the United States was producing over ten times as much? 
What calculation of the war leaders was responsible for this extravagant 

The calculation was as follows: by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the 
Japanese fleet would gain several months’ control of the seas, extending at 
least as far as Australia. Infantry and air force could conquer the Philippines, 
Malaya, Indonesia, and perhaps the American outposts of the Pacific, such 
as Guam. Controlling an enormous area rich in stockpiles of raw materials, 
Japan would be in a position to organize and prepare her defense. None of 

3 2 


the highest-ranking generals or admirals conceived of Japanese troops entering 
Washington and dictating an unconditional peace following a total victory 
over the United States. The Japanese leaders who took the responsibility of 
launching the war intended to resist the American counteroffensive long 
enough to exhaust the enemy will to be victorious (which, they believed, 
must be weak, since the United States was a democracy). 

The calculation turned out to be doubly false: in four years American 
submarines and planes destroyed virtually the entire Japanese commercial 
fleet. The latter was already basically defeated even before American bombs 
set fire to the Japanese cities and Roosevelt purchased Soviet participation 
in the war (though he should have been ready to purchase Soviet abstention). 
The calculation was no less false with regard to psychology. Democracies 
often cultivate pacifist ideologies: they are not always pacifist. In any case, 
once enraged, the Americans struck hard: the attack on Pearl Harbor gave 
the Japanese fleet a temporary mastery of Asian waters, but it made United 
States renunciation of victory very unlikely. The success of the military 
calculation during the first phase excluded the success of the psychological 
calculation regarding the final phase. Not that a better strategy^] was avail¬ 
able to the Japanese leaders: none could reasonably promise victory in a 
showdown between adversaries so unequal. 

The hope of winning by attrition assumes another meaning in the case 
of revolution or subversive wars. Insurrections are launched by minorities or 
by mobs without consideration of the “relation of forces.” Usually the rebels 
have no chance on paper. Those in power command the army, the police: 
how can men without organization and without arms prevail? For that matter, 
if the government obtains the obedience of its servants, they do not prevail. 
But the Parisian rioters in 1830 and 1848 won because neither the soldiers 
of the regular army nor, in 1848, the garde nationale seemed determined to 
fight and because, abandoned by part of the political elite, the sovereigns 
themselves lost their courage, quickly abdicated, and went into exile. 

The riots which the weak morale of armies transforms into revolutions 
do not belong in a theory of international relations. We have referred to them 
because the wars called subversive present certain characteristics of revolu¬ 
tions: above all, the decisive importance of psychological elements. In the 
Russian civil war between the revolutionary party and the conservative party, 
between the Bolsheviks, masters of the state, and the generals advocating a 
restoration, the will of the leading minorities and the state of mind of the 
masses influenced the outcome no less than the material resources accessible 
to either camp. (However, in Spain it was Franco’s material superiority which 
determined the outcome still more than the discord in the Republican camp.) 
The Vendeans did not fight any the less fiercely against the revolutionary 

[^Except perhaps Admiral Yamamoto's proposal to carry the initial venture to still 
greater extremes and attempt the occupation of Pearl Harbor. 



power than the Blues for the new world. Let us avoid mythologies. Bare¬ 
handed rebels are irresistible when those in power cannot or will not defend 
themselves. The Russian armies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries 
effectively restored order in Warsaw and in Budapest. 

The wars known today as “subversive,” for instance that of a population in 
a colonial regime against the European power, are intermediary between civil 
and foreign wars. If the territory has been juridically integrated with that of 
the metropolitan nation—as is the case with Algeria—the war, in terms of 
international law, is chiefly civil (the sovereignty of France over Algeria was 
recognized by all states), although the rebels regard it as a foreign war inso¬ 
far as they wish to become an independent political unit. In Tonkin, in 
Annam, in Tunisia, in Morocco, countries that were not colonies but over 
which France had established a protectorate or suzerainty, the “international 
conflict” aspect prevails, even in terms of international law, over the “civil 
war” aspect. 

We bring together the problem raised by these subversive wars with that 
which confronts the strategist who must establish his plan of war because 
the rebel and the traditional leader must both deal with the alternative: to 
win or not to lose. Yet there is a difference: in 1916, in 1917, even in 1918 
the supreme commanders on either side nursed hopes of destroying the 
enemy’s power to resist. Nivelle in the spring of 1917 and Ludendorff in the 
spring of 1918 counted on forcing the decision by a direct offensive. Both 
dreamed of an annihilating victory in the Napoleonic style—a victory inacces¬ 
sible to the efforts of both camps until the end of the war, the attrition of 
one side, and the reinforcement of the other by American forces deciding 
the outcome. In the case of a subversive war in which one side controls 
administration and police, assures order, and mobilizes regular armies, the 
disproportion of forces is such that only one of the belligerents can dream 
of a total military success. The conservative party has the desire to conquer, 
the rebel party the desire not to let itself be eliminated or exterminated. Here 
again we find the typical dissymmetry: one side wants to win, the other 
not to lose. 

But this dissymmetry, which formally resembles that of the Seven Years’ 
War (Frederick II against an overpowering coalition), has, fundamentally, 
an entirely different meaning. Frederick hoped to obtain a compromise peace 
on the day his adversaries recognized, if not the impossibility of beating him, 
at least the cost and the time victory would have demanded. Not having been 
defeated, the King of Prussia was in relative terms a victor: he would keep 
his previous conquests, and his prestige would be increased in proportion 
to his heroism. Not having been victorious, the coalition of the traditional 
great powers admitted the newcomer on a basis of equality. But if the 
rebellious side—the Neo-Destour, the Istiqlal—is not eliminated, but seizes 
power and obtains independence, it has won a total victory in political terms, 
since it has achieved its objective, the nation’s independence, and since the 



protecting or colonial power has ultimately abandoned the authority it had 
arrogated to itself. In this case it would be enough for the rebel side not to 
lose militarily in order to gain politically. But why does the conservative party 
accept its defeat politically without having been defeated militarily? Why 
must it win decisively by eliminating the rebellion if it wants not to lose? 

To understand the political outcome of a straggle that is indecisive in 
military terms, we must recall another dissymmetry of the parties in a colonial 
conflict. The nationalists who demand the independence of their nation 
(which has or has not existed in the past, which lives or does not live in the 
hearts of the people) are more impassioned than the governing powers 
of the colonial state. At least in our times they believe in the sanctity of their 
cause more than their adversaries believe in the legitimacy of their domina¬ 
tion. Sixty years ago the Frenchman no more doubted France’s mission 
civilisatrice than the Englishman questioned the “white man’s burden.” Today 
the Frenchman doubts that he has the moral right to refuse the populations 
of Africa and Asia a patrie (which cannot be France), even if this patrie is 
only a dream, even if it should prove to be incapable of any authentic 

This dissymmetry is confirmed by the change in the colonial balance-sheet. 
To administer a territory today is to assume responsibility for its development. 
Most often, this responsibility costs more than the enlarging of the market or 
the exploitation of natural resources brings in. It is hardly surprising that the 
conservative party eventually wearies of paying the price of pacification and of 
investments for the benefit of the very populations that oppose it. A formally 
total defeat (the rebel side has finally won the sovereignty it sought) is not 
necessarily experienced as such by the ex-colonial power. 

The apparent simplicity of the stake—independence or not—conceals the 
complexity of the situation. If the independence of the protectorate or the 
colony were considered by the imperial state as an absolute evil, an irremedi¬ 
able defeat, we should return to the elementary friend-enemy duality. The 
nationalist—Tunisian, Moroccan, Algerian—would be the enemy, not occa¬ 
sional or even permanent, to use the terms defined above, but rather the 
absolute enemy, the one with whom no reconciliation is possible, whose very 
existence is an aggression, and who consequently must be exterminated. 
Delenda est Carthago: the formula is that of absolute hostility, the hostility 
of Rome and Carthage; one of the two cities is de trop. If Algeria were to 
have remained definitively French, the nationalists seeking an independent 
Algeria would have had to be pitilessly eliminated. If millions of Moslems 
were to become French in the middle of the twentieth century, they 
would have had to be prevented even from dreaming of an Algerian nation, 
and made to forget the witnesses “w'ho got themselves murdered.” 

Perhaps some Frenchmen would have preferred this to be the case: reality 
is less logical, more human. The colonial power conceives of various ways to 
retreat, whose consequences are not identical; some of these ways to retreat 



are in the long run preferable to maintenance by force. The interests of the 
metropolitan country will be more or less preserved depending on which 
men wield power in the ex-colony, promoted to the rank of an independent 
state. Henceforth the imperial power is not in conflict with a single, clearly 
defined enemy, the nationalist; it must choose, delimit its enemy. In Indo- 
China, Western strategy should and probably could have held the Communist 
nationalist to be the enemy, hut not the nationalist who was hostile or simply 
indifferent to communism. Such a decision would have implied that France 
did not regard the independence of the Associated States as fundamentally 
contrary to her interests. France would have had more opportunities of win¬ 
ning the war by separating Communists and nationalists, granting the latter’s 
chief demands. But to the officers thinking in terms of empire, this so-called 
rational strategy would have seemed sheer idiocy. 

In “subversive” wars since 1945, the conservative power has consistently 
been confronted by three kinds of adversaries: Communists, intransigent 
nationalists, and moderate nationalists who would accept progressive steps and 
sometimes be content with autonomy. Among the intransigents, some sought 
and others rejected collaboration with the colonial state. Extremists in the 
immediate present were sometimes moderates in the long run. Depending on 
the circumstances and the final intentions of the conservative strategy, the 
three groups constituted a common front, or drew apart. When the imperial 
power renounced sovereignty, only the Communists and those nationalists 
desiring a break with the West have remained enemies. King Mohammed V 
and M. Bourguiba, the Istiqlal and the Neo-Destour, can be the sovereigns 
or the parties of friendly states. Once again, yesterday’s enemy is today’s 
friend. Politics cannot be reasonable without the capacity to forget. 

The conviction has spread that the nationalist victory is written in advance 
in the book of destiny, in accordance with historical determinism. For many 
reasons the victory of Asian and African revolutionists over the European 
empires has been assured. But on this level of formal analysis, one observation 
appears necessary. The inequality of determination among the adversaries was 
still more marked than the inequality of material forces. The dissymmetry of 
will, of interest, of animosity in the belligerent dialogue of conservers and 
rebels was the ultimate origin of what French authors call the defeats of the 

Is will alone enough to stop the nationalist movement? The circumstances 
in Algeria were, in certain respects, comparable to those in Tunisia and 
Morocco: here, too, French strategy hesitated over the definition of the 
enemy, sometimes inclined to include all nationalists in it, sometimes, on the 
contrary, to limit it to FLN militants, or even to FLN extremists. In Algeria, 
too, French strategy has learned the difficulty of winning a military victory 
that must be total to be uncontested, and is prohibited by the very nature of a 
guerrilla army scattered in the djebels and supplied from abroad. But all 
these classical arguments are opposed by another: the guerrilla forces have 


3 6 

still less chance of defeating the regular army. If the men in power are willing 
to spend hundreds of billions of francs a year as long as is necessary, if the 
army finds the pursuit of partisans in accord with the normal exercise of the 
military profession, if public opinion in the metropolitan nation abides by 
this prolonged conflict and consents to the necessary sacrifices, the impossi¬ 
bility of winning appears—what it actually is—bilateral, as obvious for the 
rebels as for the forces of order so much do the former’s losses exceed 
the latter’s. 

The French established in Algeria did not seem any less persistent than the 
rebels, and they communicated their obstinacy to a portion of the French¬ 
men in metropolitan France. That this stubbornness could change the out¬ 
come was never likely. That it changed the aspect of events cannot be 

4. Conduct of Engagements and Strategy 

Policy does not control merely the conception of the whole conflict. In 
certain cases it also determines the conduct of a battle, the risks an army 
leader must accept, the limits the strategists must establish for the tactician’s 

Let us again consider examples to illustrate these formulas. The man who 
commands an army or a fleet can no longer take “victory as the sole objective” 
any more than the general in charge of a vast theater of operations. In the 
famous battle of Jutland, the last in which whole squadrons confronted each 
other without aircraft, Admiral Jellicoe never forgot for an instant that on 
that day he could lose not just a battle but the war. On the other hand, there 
was no need to destroy the German fleet in order to obtain the strategically 
necessary result. He had to repulse the German fleet’s attempt to break the 
blockade, and still preserve numerical superiority: simultaneously, the only 
success necessary to final victory would be achieved. In short, to return to the 
expressions employed above, the English fleet had won as soon as it had not 
lost. The German fleet had lost by the very fact that it had not won. The 
relation of forces was not modified: the Allies retained control of the seas. 

In relation to the total strategic perspective, Admiral Jellicoe was right 
not to pursue the German fleet to the point of exposing his own vessels to 
submarine or torpedo attack. Of course, the destruction of the German fleet 
would have added to the glory of the Royal Navy and scored a point against 
German morale, reinforced the confidence of the Allies, and influenced public 
opinion in the neutral states. But these advantages were marginal, secondary; 
they were absurd in comparison with the jeopardy of the British fleet, which 
was indispensable to control of the seas and therefore to the very existence 
of the Western camp. 

Further, this prudence was justified by subsequent events. The German 
fleet exerted no further influence upon the course of hostilities. It had won 
prestige because it had fought in an undecided battle, and achieved several 



technical or tactical successes. But if the chief military leader sometimes takes 
glory as his supreme objective, the subordinate military leader must not take 
any objective other than one in accord with the plan of war. 

In this case the subordination of local action to the strategic conception 
is strictly military, without reference to politics. The same is not true of the 
decision the German military leaders had to make apropos of unrestricted 
submarine warfare. The memorandum written on this occasion by Max Weber 
is an admirable illustration of the political-military calculation necessary un¬ 
der such circumstances. 

The question was not so much one of knowing if unrestricted submarine 
warfare—the destruction of merchant vessels without warning—was or was 
not in accord with international law: as a matter of fact, it was contrary to 
the rules admitted by the ranking powers before 1914, but Allied behavior 
in the war at sea (long-distance blockade, camouflaged armament of cargo 
ships) was not irreproachable either. On the level of strict rationality, the 
first question was to discover whether the proclamation of unrestricted sub¬ 
marine warfare would provoke the United States to enter the war, or if Ameri¬ 
can intervention would at least be delayed in the absence of such a declara¬ 

Even supposing this declaration provoked American intervention, it might 
still be rational if the submarines could insure an effective counterblockade, 
preventing or delaying the transportation of a great American army to 
Europe, and if the German army were in a position to win before the weight 
of this still intact army made itself felt on the battlefields. None of these con¬ 
ditions was realized. The strategic decisions of the Hindenburg-Ludendorff 
group—unrestricted submarine warfare, offensive on the western front, main¬ 
tenance of relatively important forces to hold eastern gains—were, if not 
radically erroneous, at least exaggeratedly reckless. The leaders of the Central 
Powers played their trump card, not hesitating to defy the United States 
or to assume offensives which would precipitate irremediable defeat if they 
did not produce total victory. Let us add, to keep the reader from losing his 
sense of historical irony, that the American navy practiced what in 1917 was 
called unrestricted submarine warfare from the first day of hostilities against 

The limitation of military operations as a function of political necessities, 
objected to by American generals in Korea and French generals in Algeria, 
is not in itself at all original. It is likely that the bombing of the Manchurian 
airfields in 1951 or 1952 would not have provoked an extension of the 
theater of operations or of the number of belligerents. But the bombing 
would also not have modified the course of hostilities substantially, since the 
Chinese Migs were not attacking the American positions and were not pre¬ 
venting the American bombers from completing their missions. Further, the 
Chinese might have replied to the bombing of the Manchurian airfields 
by bombing Korean ports, if not Japanese bases. The unwritten convention 



of this limited war involved reciprocal respect of "zones of refuge,” of 
"sanctuaries” outside the theater in which the conflict of the two Koreas was 
taking place, supported respectively by Chinese and American forces. 

Somewhat different is the case of the French decision with regard to 
Tunisia (between 1955 and 1962). Tunisia was theoretically neutral in a 
conflict that, in terms of international law, was not a warJlSJ between the 
FLN and French authorities in Algeria. As a matter of fact, Tunisia, on 
whose territory the FLN stationed troops, did not behave as a neutral state: 
it gave assistance to the rebels, an action contrary to the international custom 
of the past hut in conformity with the practice of the present. Juridically and 
morally France was entitled to reply at least by raids on the fellagha bases. 
The point was to discover the consequences, costs and advantage of such raids. 

Even a temporary invasion of Tunisia would probably have made the 
departure of the "French colony” inevitable, and obliged M. Bourguiba’s 
government to break off relations with France and seek support elsewhere. It 
would have provoked the censure (whether justified or not is of little im¬ 
portance) of Afro-Asian public opinion and of an important share of Western 
public opinion. These political disadvantages could have been justified only 
by military advantages of incontestable scope. Yet in order to destroy the 
FLN’s logistic bases in Tunisia effectively, it would have been necessary to 
occupy the nation over an extended period (which the French general staff, 
short of forces, was reluctant to do, aside from any political consideration). A 
temporary occupation of Tunisia, with unforeseeable political countereffects, 
would have had little effect on the fundamental circumstances of the Algerian 

This analysis aims less at proving a thesis than at recalling a general prop¬ 
osition. Rare in modern history are the circumstances in which the leaders 
have been free to do everything they regarded as effective and useful on the 
strictly military level. That generals must renounce certain actions out of 
respect for international legality, for allies or neutrals, is the rule rather than 
the exception. 

Perhaps it would be helpful to consider a final example of a politico- 
military decision condemned by the outcome, which ministers and generals 
blame on each other: the decision to defend Laos, then to organize this 
defense around the entrenched camp of Dien-Bien-Phu. The thesis of the 
unfortunate general is that the decision to defend Laos against the Viet-minh 
was taken by the "supreme commander,” in this case the government in 
Paris. This decision, continues the defense, implied the establishment of an 
entrenched camp at Dien-Bien-Phu, the only position from which Laos could 
be defended. Once again, it is not our concern to analyze the case in detail, 
i.e., to determine whether the camp at Dien-Bien-Phu constituted the only 
possible application of the decision to defend Laos, whether this camp could 

El Although a certain "belligerence” can be attributed to the FLN. 



have been organized so that resistance had a chance of success, or whether 
this camp, finally, despite appearances, fulfilled at least one of its functions, 
to preserve the capital of Laos and to keep the strength of the Viet-minh 
forces out of the Tonkin Delta. 

Retrospectively, the polemic between government and military command 
over Laos or Dien-Bien-Phu is of double interest because it touches on two 
aspects of the relations between strategy and politics. It was, in fact, politically 
important to protect Laos, the member of the Associated States whose leaders 
and population were least hostile to France. The loss of Laos, secondary in 
military terms, would have dealt a blow to French prestige throughout Indo- 
China, publicly symbolizing the weakness of French arms. But it would be 
wrong to conclude as a result that on this occasion political considerations 
and military considerations were opposed. Anxiety over prestige and the sig¬ 
nificance of a territory in terms of morale are part of the political order but 
do not constitute its entirety. In any circumstance, partial political arguments 
can be opposed by partial military arguments. But the point here is not a 
conflict between strategy and diplomacy, since arguments for and against a 
certain decision occur just as often in the military as in the political order. 

The mistake would be to confuse partial motives of a political order with 
the political order itself, which is essentially defined by the total situation, by 
the unifying overview of the intellect. “That policy unites in itself, and 
reconciles all the interests of internal administrations, even those of humanity, 
and whatever else are rational subjects of consideration is presupposed, for it 
is nothing in itself, except a mere representative and exponent of all these in¬ 
terests towards other states.’^ What the commanders in Paris who were in 
charge of waging this Far Eastern war lacked was a total view of the war 
itself, of the interests they wished to safeguard, of the goals they thereby 
proposed. After the Communist victory in continental China, could they still 
hope to defeat the Viet-minh? In this hypothesis they entirely misjudged the 
relation of forces. Did they want to maintain a French demi-authority in the 
Associated States or else keep the latter outside the Viet-minh zone? If the 
first alternative was correct, they were subordinating the essential goal- 
limiting Communist expansion—to a secondary objective, the mode of rela¬ 
tions between France and the Associated States. Did they envisage direct 
negotiation with the Viet-minh or a broadened negotiation with China, the 
Soviet Union, and the Western powers? In such a strategic perspective, it 
would have been possible to specify the necessary means and the pledges 
to be kept at any price. Lacking this total perspective and defined objectives, 
policy' falls into the error indicated by Clausewitz: “That policy makes de¬ 
mands on the War which it cannot respond to, would be contrary to the 
supposition that it knows the instrument which it is going to use, therefore, 
contrary to a natural and indispensable supposition.’lllJln Indo-China, to use 

GUClausewitz, op. cif., VIII, 6, p. 124. 

UMlbid., p. 125. 



Clausewitz’s terms again, it is not “the prejudicial influence of policy on the 
conduct of a War” that was at fault, but policy itself. "It is only when policy 
promises itself a wrong effect from certain military means and measures” that 
it exerts a pernicious influence on war by insisting that it follow a certain 
course. “Just as a person in a language with which he is not conversant some¬ 
times says what he does not intend, so policy, when intending right, may 
often order things which do not tally with its own views.’ED 

It is worse still when politics gives no orders or when a political leader and 
a military command are each unaware of the other. In Indo-China the military 
command determined the establishment of the entrenched camp at Dien- 
Bien-Phu before the Geneva Conference, of whose outcome it was unaware. 
The International Conference upset the basic conditions of the problem, in¬ 
cluding the military ones. It incited the Viet-minh to achieve at any price a 
spectacular success on the eve of negotiations. It should have suggested ex¬ 
treme caution to the French general staff. The Viet-minh had to seek a 
spectacular success, just as the French expeditionary force had to refuse it the 
occasion for such a success at any cost. 

5. Diplomacy and Military Means 

Let us turn back to one of the Clausewitz formulas we have quoted: 
policy must know the instrument it is to employ. This formula is no less 
true in peacetime than in war. Until the Korean War, U.S. foreign policy 
oscillated from one extreme to the other, obsessed by military victory ex¬ 
clusively in wartime, indifferent to military considerations in peacetime. Alexis 
de Tocqueville had already noted this inclination to a double extremism 
—few soldiers in peacetime, little diplomatic subtlety once the guns speak— 
and had considered it the expression of the democratic spirit. 

Rationality, in fact, dictates reflection on peace despite the uproar of the 
melee, and on war when weapons are silent. The commerce of nations is 
continuous; diplomacy and war are only complementary modalities, one or the 
other dominating in turn, without one ever entirely giving way to the other 
except in the extreme case either of absolute hostility, or of absolute friend¬ 
ship or total federation. 

Military indifference, in peacetime, can take two forms: one is characteris¬ 
tic, in our times, of the United States, the other of France. The first consists 
of taking armament potential for actual power, imagining that diplomatic 
notes have the same force of conviction whether they are supported by 
statistics of steel production or by fleets of battleships, aircraft carriers and 
planes. From 1931 till the summer of 1940 the United States refused to 
recognize the Japanese conquests and to oppose such ventures by force. 

The second modality of diplomacy not in accord with strategy, the French 
modality, is characterized by the contradiction between the war a nation has 

H Ibid., pp. 126-27. 



the military means to wage and the war diplomatic agreements eventually 
oblige it to wage. Between 1919 and 1936 the occupation or disarmament 
of the left bank of the Rhine permitted France to impose her will upon 
Germany, provided she had the determination and the courage to use force. 
As long as the French army held the Rhine bridgeheads, it had an almost 
decisive advantage in case of conflict, being in a position from the first days 
of hostility to strike at the heart of the Reich’s industrial arsenal. In this 
military instance the alliances on the other side of Germany, with the new 
nations created out of the decomposition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 
supported not French security but French hegemony over Europe. With 
Germany open to the west, girdled by hostile states to the east and the south, 
France extended her power to the frontiers of the Soviet Union. But in 
order to maintain this pre-eminence, she required an army capable of profiting 
offensively from the demilitarization of the left bank of the Rhine and of 
forbidding the Reichswehr to reoccupy this zone so vital in military terms. 
At the crucial moment, in March 1936, the French Minister of War, like the 
general staff, insisted on complete mobilization before agreeing to a military 
response. France had no army of intervention and, by digging the Maginot 
Line, had given evidence of a defensive military attitude which corresponded 
to the spirit but not to the necessities of a conservative diplomacy: to main¬ 
tain the Versailles Treaty and the system of alliances in the Balkans and 
Eastern Europe, France would have had to be capable of military initiatives 
in order to prevent Germany’s violation of the treaty’s essential clauses. 

Once the Rhineland was reoccupied by the Reichswehr and the latter 
transformed into a mass army, French pledges to Czechoslovakia, Poland and 
Rumania changed their meaning. France promised to oppose German aggres¬ 
sion by a war which could only be a long one, on the model of that of 1914- 
18. In such a war the eastern allies represented additional forces, but even 
this contribution was precarious since these nations, being vulnerable, risked 
being submerged by the German tide more rapidly than Serbia and Rumania 
had been swallowed up during the course of the preceding conflict. Further, 
it was easy to point to the French pledges as involving the risk of a not in¬ 
evitable war. After all, wouldn’t Hitler be satisfied once he had reunited all 
the Germans into a single Reich, in accordance with his ideology (ein Volk, 
ein Reich, ein Fiikrer)? 

A diplomacy which claims to act without an army in condition to fight, a 
diplomacy which possesses an army incapable of the missions required by its 
objectives, these two lapses of rationality are as attributable to the psychology 
of the leaders and peoples as to intellectual error. Before the age of strategic 
bombers and ballistic missiles, the United States had never had to fear any 
neighbor state. It had to win space from the Indians (militias sufficed) and 
from nature (what was the use of soldiers?). Power politics was an invention 
of despotisms, one of the aspects of European corruption which had been left 
behind. The refusal to recognize territorial changes made by force expressed 



simultaneously a confused legal ideology, the desire not to wage war, and an 
obscure confidence in the final triumph of morality over force. 

The American disarmament of 1945 (“bring the boys bach”) was the last 
episode of this traditional policy (or non-policy), the last symbol of the radi¬ 
cal break between war and peace. The war had to be won: all other business 
was broken off, the job had been done, and done well. The moment had come 
to return to civilian life, to industry, to commerce, to sport, to what concerns 
the citizens of a free democracy once the wicked or the mad, the fascists or 
the imperialists, have been rendered harmless. 

The French rupture of politico-military unity also had a psychological 
cause. The status created by the Versailles Treaty was artificial insofar as it 
did not express the true relation of forces once Great Britain and the United 
States declared their hostility to it or showed their indifference to it. If the 
Soviet Union and a rearmed Germany united to destroy it, France, with only 
her Continental allies, did not have the force to save it. Logically, this pre¬ 
cariousness of the European order after 1918 should have incited France to 
exploit fully, and to conserve as long as possible, the advantages she owed to 
the victor)' (Germany disarmed, the Rhineland defenseless). Rationality dic¬ 
tated an active defense supported by the threat of military actions (barring a 
frank attempt to appease Weimar Germany^ by offering it satisfaction). But 
the feeling of potential inferiority prevailed even though there still existed a 
hegemony in fact. The military organization reflected the desire for security 
and withdrawal, whereas diplomacy still accorded with hegemony. 

The coordination of diplomacy and strategy assumes a new character after 
1945 because of the multiplicity of combat techniques. Before the Atomic 
Age, no one imagined using different weapons according to different cir¬ 
cumstances. Today, one does not conceive of using a thermonuclear bomb or 
even a tactical atomic weapon without regard to the kind of war involved. 
The nature of the conflict formerly determined the volume of the forces en¬ 
gaged and the degree of mobilization of forces, whether actual or potential. 
Today it determines the type of weapons used. 

From every evidence, the conduct of wars will be still more political than 
in the past. It is no longer a question of granting the military leaders com¬ 
plete freedom to win the war, no matter how and at no matter what price. 
The very notion of winning is probably no longer the same and, in any case, 
the question of the cost, though it has always been asked, now becomes de¬ 
cisive: what good is it to destroy the enemy if the latter simultaneously de¬ 
stroys you? 

Let us say, generalizing, that all of yesterday’s questions are still asked: 
What share of the potential forces should be permanently mobilized? What 
are the strategic eventualities in relation to which military preparation must 
be organized? What are the missions policy is liable to assign the army in 

IUfTh is theoretical possibility no longer existed after Hider’s accession to power. 



various circumstances? But to these classical questions we must henceforth 
add new questions: How many types of war, distinct according to the weap¬ 
ons used, must be conceived? For how many of these wars can a state prepare? 
To what degree can the military systems that would see action under various 
circumstances be administratively separate? Will the same troops intervene in 
case of total war, of limited war with atomic weapons, of limited war with 
conventional weapons? A national defense organization has always been the 
expression of strategic doctrine, but the instruments of combat could be more 
or less numerous, manipulated according to various methods: the military 
leaders did not have to choose among panoplies. Henceforth the diversity of 
panoplies is plainly evident. 

At the same time, there reappears in another form a danger present a half- 
century ago: diplomacy risks becoming a prisoner, at the crucial moment, of 
military mechanisms which must be prepared in advance, which the govern¬ 
ment remains free to set off or not, but which it can no longer modify. Dur¬ 
ing the fatal week in July 1914 which preceded the outburst, on two occa¬ 
sions the general staffs—in Russia and Germany—explained to the sovereigns 
and their advisers that a certain measure was technically impossible. The Tsar 
desired partial mobilization against Austria, but such a mobilization had not 
been foreseen; it would have upset all plans and precipitated chaos. Similarly, 
the only strategy envisaged by the German general staff was that of a war on 
two fronts with an initial offensive in the west. The Reich, too, could not 
mobilize against Russia alone nor, after mobilization, remain with guns at 
the ready: France would have to be attacked and beaten as quicldy as possi¬ 
ble, before Russia could engage the majority of her forces. At a moment when 
destiny was still hesitating, the automatic military machinery geared to the 
war plans was set in motion and men were swept on almost in spite of them¬ 

At present the strategy of deterrence requires that the machinery of retali¬ 
ation be established in advance. Is there a risk that this machinery might be 
set off by mistake or that it might be set off according to plans established in 
advance, whereas, for various reasons, the military leaders might hope to 
modify these plans (partial retaliation and not massive retaliation)? Before 
1914 the automatism was that of “administrative machinery,” of military 
bureaucracies in charge of mobilization. In i960 the automatism to be feared 
is as much that of electronic devices as of strategic plans. In 1914 statesmen 
had several days in which to make a decision. In the 1960s they have only 
several minutes. 

It is too simple, actually, to allow for only two actors, oneself and the 
enemy. Particularly in our times, medium-size states must orient themselves 
not only in relation to an adverse coalition but also in relation to allies who 
may desire the enemy’s defeat, but who may be hostile or indifferent to the 
particular objectives of their comrades in arms. The United States or Great 
Britain, between 1939 and 1945, were not under the obligation to save the 



French Empire. Even in the West, the states, united in the effort to defeat 
the Third Reich, did not otherwise necessarily aim at the same goals. 

Curiously, the most serious dissensions among the Americans and the 
British were not provoked by real contradictions of interest. The United 
States had as much to gain as Great Britain by limiting Soviet expansion, 
preventing the Sovietization of Eastern Europe. The strategy of the Western 
invasion, of attack against the enemy’s “fortress,” was dictated by strictly 
military arguments. It is true that at the time Roosevelt and his advisers were 
not so aware as American leaders today of the Western community and of 
the irreducible hostility of the Soviet Union. 

A different conception of the best way of winning is enough to make the 
conduct of war by a coalition difficult. But the various ways of winning 
rarely lead to the same results for all the partners. Logically, each state 
desires to contribute to the victory, but without weakening itself in relation 
to its allies. These rivalries fatally diminish the effectiveness of the coalition. 

The duality of considerations—defense of one’s own interests and con¬ 
tribution to the common cause—combines with the polymorphism of wars to 
create the present circumstances of the Atlantic Alliance. The generally 
valid rule for conduct to follow in a coalition is to concentrate forces in the 
terrain where the nation’s particular interests are most important. In this 
regard, the Indo-Chinese war, even interpreted as one of the fronts of resis¬ 
tance to communism, was an error on France’s part which involved a con¬ 
siderable portion of her total resources in a theater secondary for herself 
as well as for the West. 

More justifiable, in this regard, was the transfer to Algeria of the major 
part of the French army. Of course, the coalition was weakened by this, and 
the NATO shield became too thin. Insofar as they did not regard Algerian 
nationalism as a threat, the other Western powers were inclined to criticize 
France both because she did not furnish the contribution she had promised 
to the Atlantic forces, and because she compromised relations between the 
West and the Islamic world. Even if these reproaches were well-founded 
from the point of view of the Alliance, the French decision was not neces¬ 
sarily erroneous. The weakening of the Atlantic forces did not noticeably 
increase the danger of war in Europe; the transfer of the French divisions 
afforded an opportunity of preserving sovereignty south of the Mediterra¬ 
nean. If this sovereignty had a vital importance, it would have justified the 
engagement of the majority of French forces in Algeria, even if this action 
displeased other members of the Alliance. 

The danger is that all the allies, repeating the same rationale—I am doing 
little disservice to the common interest but I am doing great service to my 
own—might end by aiding the enemy’s victory. The neutral state, desiring 
the victory of one camp but judging that the sacrifices required by its inter¬ 
vention would be considerable without adding substantially to the likeli¬ 
hood of victory, is correct—provided it does not set an example. Ultimately 



there would remain only a single state to assume the burden of indispensable 
action. Furthermore, the leader of the coalition is the only one inclined to 
identify the coalition’s interests with his own. 

The choice, by each ally, of his contribution to the Alliance has been 
rendered still more difficult in recent years by the alternative of conventional 
weapons and atomic weapons. Yesterday Great Britain, today France wish to 
enter the atomic club: what role will be left for conventional weapons if 
atomic arms and delivery systems obtain their due? The very meaning of the 
choice remains equivocal: will atomic weapons protect France from possible 
aggression or possible Soviet blackmail, or will they reinforce France’s posi¬ 
tion within the Alliance? 

The unity of policy, including both war and peace, diplomacy and strategy, 
bars the total solidarity of allies. Only a miracle would insure the coinci¬ 
dence of all the interests of all the states within the coalition. The force of a 
coalition is always less than the sum of the forces it possesses on paper. 

The primacy of policy is a theoretical proposition, not a plan of action. 
But this theoretical proposition is of a nature to do more good than harm, if 
the reduction of violence is regarded as desirable. 

The primacy of policy, in fact, permits the control of escalation, the 
avoidance of an explosion of animosity into passionate and unrestricted bru¬ 
tality. The more the leaders calculate in terms of cost and profit and the 
less they are inclined to relinquish the pen for the sword, the more they will 
hesitate to abandon themselves to the risk of arms, the more they will be 
content to limit their successes and renounce the intoxication of dazzling vic¬ 
tories. The reasonable conduct of politics is the only rational one if the goal 
of the intercourse among states is the survival of all, common prosperity, and 
the sparing of the peoples’ blood. 

Of course, the subordination of war to policy has not meant, in fact, the 
pacification of this intercourse. The nature of war depends on the total his¬ 
torical circumstances. “If policy is grand and powerful, so also will be the 
War, and this may be carried to the point at which War attains to its 
absolute formS^k But if war is in the image of policy, if it varies as a 
function of the stake the latter determines, pacification ceases to be incon¬ 
ceivable. Calculation can make evident to princes that the cost of the war 
will in any case be superior to the profits of victory. 

Yet this calculation must convince all the participants. Otherwise it would 
serve no purpose and by provoking inequality of determination would even 
risk precipitating the very thing it was attempting to avoid. At this level 
the principle of polarity reappears: a limited war does not depend upon only 
one of the belligerents. “If . . . one of two belligerents is determined to 
seek the great decision by arms, then he has a high probability of success, as 
soon as he is certain his opponent will not take that way, but follows a dif- 

[l^Clausewitz, op. cit., VIII, 6, p. 123. 



ferent object.® The theory of war, in the Atomic Age, would be easier but 
for the fact that the conduct of one actor is at every moment subject to the 
other’s reaction. No dialogue, peaceful or warlike, can remain reasonable if 
all participants do not consent to it. 

[13 Ibid., I, 2, p. 42. 

chapter 11 

Power and Force 

On the Means of Foreign Policy 

Few concepts are as frequently used and as equivocal as those of power 
( puissance, Macht). In English the phrase power politics, in German the 
expression Macht Poiitik, is spoken with an accent of criticism or resignation, 
of horror or admiration. In French the expression politique de puissance 
sounds as if it were translated from a foreign language. Few French authors 
have glorified the politique de puissance as the German doctrinaires have 
extolled Macht Poiitik, and few French authors have condemned the politique 
de puissance in the way American moralists have condemned power politics. 

In a general sense, power is the capacity to do, make or destroy. An ex¬ 
plosive has a measurable power, as does the tide, the wind or an earthquake. 
The power of a person or of a collectivity is not strictly measurable, because 
of the diversity of the goals chosen and the means employed. The fact that 
fundamentally men apply their power to their fellow creatures gives the 
concept its true political significance. An individual’s power is his capacity to 
act, but above all to influence the actions or feelings of other individuals. 
On the international scene I should define power as the capacity of a political 
unit to impose its will upon other units. In short, political power is not an 
absolute; it is a human relationship. 

This definition suggests several distinctions: between defensive power (or 
the capacity of a political unit to keep the will of others from being im¬ 
posed upon it) and offensive power (or the capacity of a political unit to 
impose its will upon others); between the resources or military force of a 
collectivity, which can be evaluated objectively, and its power, which, being 
a human relationship, does not depend on material or instruments alone; 
between the politics of force and the politics of power. All international 
politics involves a constant collision of wills, since it consists of relations 
among sovereign states which claim to rule themselves independently. So 
long as these units are not subject to external law or to an arbiter, they are, 



as such, rivals, for each is affected by the actions of the others and inevitably 
suspects their intentions. But these interacting wills do not necessarily set 
up a potential or real military rivalry. Relations among political units are 
not always bellicose, and peaceful relations are influenced, but not deter¬ 
mined, by past or future military accomplishments. 

1. Force and the Tivo Kinds of Power 

French, English and German all distinguish between two notions, power 
and force (strength), puissance et force, Macht und Kraft. It does not seem 
to me contrary to the spirit of these languages to reserve the first term for 
the human relationship, the action itself, and the second for the means, the 
individual’s muscles or the state’s weapons. 

In the physical sense a man is strong if his weight or muscles afford 
him the means of resisting or mastering other men. But such strength is 
nothing without ingenuity, resolution, nerve. Similarly we propose, apropos 
of collectivities, to distinguish between military, economic and even moral 
forces, and power, which is the functioning of these forces in given circum¬ 
stances and with a view to particular goals. The forces being susceptible to 
an approximate evaluation, power can be estimated, with an extended mar¬ 
gin for error, by reference to the forces available. But there is such a broad 
distinction possible between defensive and offensive power, between war¬ 
time and peacetime power, between power within a certain geographical zone 
and power beyond this zone, that the measurement of a power taken as 
absolute and intrinsic seems to me to do more harm than good. It does harm 
to the statesman who supposes himself in possession of specific information, 
whereas he possesses merely a deceptively rigorous measurement of a re¬ 
sultant, of equivocal meaning. It does harm to the political scientist who 
substitutes for the relation of states—i.e., for human collectivities—the con¬ 
frontation of masses, thereby depriving the object of study of its true mean¬ 

The notion of force, in its turn, requires distinctions. At least until the 
advent of the Atomic Age the end and essence of war was combat. The en¬ 
gagement of soldiers, whatever the distance between the lines imposed by 
the evolution of weapons, remained the supreme test, comparable to the 
cash payment in which any credit operations ultimately conclude. On the 
day of the denouement, that is, of the engagement, only the forces actually 
mobilized influenced the outcome—the raw materials transformed into can¬ 
nons and shells, the citizens trained for combat. "The conduct of War is 
not making powder and cannon out of a given quantity of charcoal, sulphur, 
and saltpetre, of copper and tin: the given quantities for the conduct of War 
are arms in a finished state and their effects.’H 

Let us call potential force the total human, material and moral resources 

Hciausewitz, op. cit., II, 2, p. 113. 



which each unit possesses on paper, and let us call actual force those of its 
resources that are mobilized for the conduct of international relations in war¬ 
time or peacetime. In wartime, actual force is close to military force (with¬ 
out entirely coinciding with it, since the course of operations is, in part, 
determined by non-military forms of conflict). In peacetime, actual force is 
not to be confused with military force since the divisions, fleets and air¬ 
planes in being but not utilized are only one of the instruments in the 
service of foreign policy. 

Between potential force and actual force the factor of mobilization inter¬ 
venes. The force available to each political unit in its rivalry with others is 
proportional not to its potential but to its potential of mobilization. The lat¬ 
ter, in its turn, depends on many factors which can be reduced to two ab¬ 
stract terms: capacity and will. The conditions of economic or administrative 
capacity, and of collective will as affirmed by the leaders and supported by 
the masses, are not constant throughout history; they vary from period to 

Is the power of the leaders (the men in power ) of the same nature as 
the power of political units? 

The link between the two notionJl— power within the political unit 
(pouvoir ) and the power of the political unit itself (puissance)— is easily 
perceived. The political unit defines itself through opposition: it becomes 
itself by becoming capable of external action. Yet it can act as a political 
unit only by the intermediary of one or of several men. Those who come to 
power (to translate literally the German expression an die Macht koinmen) 
are the guides, the representatives of the political unit in relation to the out¬ 
side world. But they are thereby responsible for mobilizing the unit’s forces 
in order to permit its survival in the jungle where “cold monsters” disport 
themselves. In other words, when international relations have not emerged 
from the state of nature, the men in power, that is, those responsible for 
the nation in relation to the outside world, are at the same time men of 
power, possessors of an extended capacity to influence the conduct of their 
fellow men and the very existence of the collectivity. 

This analysis does not lead us to confuse the two kinds of power, pouvoir 
and puissance. The statesman’s action does not have the same meaning, is 
not situated within the same universe, but differs according to whether the 
action is internally or externally oriented. Whether the sovereign is a heredi¬ 
tary monarch or the head of a party, whether he relies upon birth or elec¬ 
tion, he wishes to be legitimate; the readiness with which he is obeyed de¬ 
pends on how widely his legitimacy is recognized. The conditions under 
which any man becomes a sovereign tend to be codified, like the methods 
according to which the sovereign must command. The choice of the chief 
of state and the means by which his command is exercised are increasingly 

HlDesignated by the same word in English (power) and in German (Macht). 

5 ° 


institutionalized. In modem societies, this institutionalization assumes a legal 
character, expressed in abstract formulas. But in every period, the distinc¬ 
tion is at least implicit between the orders of a conqueror and those of a 
legitimate sovereign. Initially, at least, the conqueror employs or invokes 
pure force, while the sovereign desires to be the interpreter of the collectivity 
itself and conform to the tradition or the law that has fixed the rules of 
succession for the leaders, according to the decree of fortune or popular 

Yet the confusion of the two kinds of power cannot be explained only by 
the role played by the possessors of power on the international scene. These 
latter are often, originally, men of •power who have succeeded. Political units, 
constitutional regimes all owe their origin to violence. French school children 
are taught that in a thousand years the kings made France. The authors of 
our textbooks have never appeared to be embarrassed by the evocation of 
the wars against barons or foreign states by which the kings achieved na¬ 
tional unification, or by the recollection of the violence with which the revo¬ 
lutionaries overthrew the monarchs in 1789, in 1830 and in 1848. Even in 
1958 the vote of the National Assembly camouflaged the new regime’s il¬ 
legality more than it set the seal of legality on its accession. The threat of 
violence—the landing of parachutists—was also a form of violence. 

It is only a step from these incontestable facts to the so-called realist in¬ 
terpretation, of which Pareto’s sociology is the expression. In this view, the 
struggle for power within the collectivity Qpouvoir) is equivalent to the 
rivalry of powers Qpuissemce'), the active minorities being in each instance 
the actors in this rivalry. The legalization of power does not change the 
significance of the phenomenon: the ruling classes oppose each other as the 
political units do, and the victorious class exercises its power in the same 
manner in which the conqueror rules. 

Such an interpretation, to my way of thinking, falsifies the meaning of 
politics^ which is a search for an equitable order, and at the same time a 
conflict among individuals or groups over positions of command and the 
sharing of scarce goods. But it remains true that the struggle for power 
and its exercise within collectivities preserves certain features common to 
the rivalry for power among autonomous units. 

He who commands by virtue of law actually possesses more or less power— 
that is, capacity to impose his will—according to the ascendancy he assumes 
over his comrades, his partners, his rivals or his subordinates, according to 
the prestige he enjoys among the minority and the majority. Yet this power, 
whether in relation to the government or pressure groups, is never precisely 
defined by the legal distribution of privileges or prerogatives. The degree of 
influence which individuals or groups actually possess, the share each has 
in the state decisions which concern either relations with foreign states or 

GDConsidered as a particular system within the social totality. 


5 * 

relations among the parts of the collectivity, depend on the means of action 
at the disposal of each, and at the same time on the talent each manifests 
in the use of these means. A constitution excludes open violence; it sketches 
a framework within which it specifies the rules by which the struggle for 
power must abide. It does not suppress the element of “rivalry for power.” 

The actors in the internal political drama, too, are animated by a desire 
for power and at the same time by ideological convictions. Those in power 
satisfy their ambitions, rarely free of all personal concern, even when con¬ 
vinced that they are serving the collectivity. The terms of a constitution, 
the official practices of parliaments, of administrations, of governments, still 
do not afford us exact knowledge of the real distribution of power within a 
country. What is the capacity of men of wealth, men of party, men of ideas 
or men of intrigue to convince or constrain the governors, to purchase the 
cooperation of the press or the administration, to provoke disinterested 
loyalty, to transform the opinions of the elite or of the crowd? There is no 
general answer to such a question. What is true is that it would be naive to 
be influenced by the letter of a constitution or legal proceedings alone. But 
it would be cynical, without being true, to regard a constitution as a mere 
fiction and the legal wielders of authority as mere figureheads or mouth¬ 
pieces. There is no example to warrant the assumption that the rules of the 
game do not influence the opportunities of the players, or that the legal 
incumbents consent to do the will of others (even of those to whom they 
owe their accession to office). 

Thereby both the similarity and difference between the conduct of "in¬ 
ternal politics” and the conduct of “foreign affairs” are apparent, as well as 
the reasons for which the theory of the one diverges from that of the other, 
at least on first analysis. The theory of international relations is entitled to 
take for granted the participants—the political units—as well as the absence 
of an arbitrator or laws, and the reference to war as a possibility (hence 
the calculation of forces, without which the conduct of a participant threat¬ 
ened with aggression would not be rational). On the other hand, political 
theory is ambivalent, in that the fundamental concepts are not beyond the 
reach of controversy. To reduce the uncertainty to its basic components, we 
may perhaps think of politics in terms of permanent competition (who gets 
what? how? when?); in terms of the need for a peaceful order at any price 
(civil war is the supreme evil, any kind of order is preferable to it); in 
terms of a search for the best order; finally, in terms of the reconciliation of 
complementary and divergent aspirations (equality and hierarchy, authority 
and reciprocal recognition, etc.). 

States recognizing each other’s sovereignty and equality have, by definition, 
no authority over each other. Statesmen controlling administration, army 
and police are at the apex of a legal hierarchy. The distinction between the 
two kinds of behavior, diplomatic-strategic and political, seems to me essen- 


5 ^ 

rial, even if the similarities are many. Power on the international scene 
differs from power on the national scene because it does not use the same 
means, nor function over the same terrain. 

2. The Elements of Power 

Many authors have enumerated the elements of either power or force with¬ 
out specifying whether they were discussing military strength or total capac¬ 
ity for action—whether they were referring to peacetime or to wartime. 
Lacking these distinctions, the enumerations seem arbitrary, heterogeneous, 
none complete or incontestable. 

For instance, the American geographer N. J. Spykmar 0 enumerates the 
following ten factors: r. surface of the territory; 2. nature of the frontiers; 

3. size of the population; 4. absence or presence of raw materials; 5. eco¬ 
nomic and technological developments; 6. financial power; 7. the ethnic 
homogeneity; 8. degree of social integration; 9. political stability; 10. na¬ 
tional morale. 

Professor H. J. Morgenthai® lists eight: 1. geography; 2. natural re¬ 
sources; 3. industrial capacity; 4. state of military preparedness; 5. population; 
6. national character; 7. national morale; 8. quality of diplomacy. 

Rudolph Steinmet® also lists eight: 1. population; 2. dimensions of the 
territory; 3. wealth; 4. political institutions; 5. quality of the command; 6. 
national unity and cohesion; 7. respect accorded to and friendship with 
foreign powers; 8. moral qualities. 

Lastly, Guido Fischer, a German au thorP on the eve of the second major 
war of the twentieth century, classified the elements of power in three cate¬ 

r. Political factors: geographical position, dimensions of the state, size 
and density of the population, skill of organization and cultural level, types 
of frontiers and attitudes of neighboring countries. 

2. Psychological factors: economic flexibility and skill in invention, per¬ 
severance, and capacity for adaptation. 

3. Economic factors: fertility of the soil and mineral wealth, industrial 
organization and technological level, development of trade and commerce, 
financial resources. 

All these attempts at classification resemble each other, save for the last. 
All include geographical data (territory) and material data (raw materials), 
economic data and technological data, and lastly human data such as po- 

B America’s Strategy in World Politics, Yale University of International Studies, 1942, 

ri * 9 .\ 

UuPolitics among Nations, New York, 1949, p. 80. 

GDSozioIogie des Krieges (2nd ed.), Berlin, 1929, pp. 227-60. 

0 Der wekrurirtschaftliche Bedarf, Zeitschrift fur die gesamte Staatswissenschaft, Vol. 
IC ( 1939 ), P- 519 - 



litical organization, the moral unity of the people, and the quality of lead¬ 
ership. Doubtless all these elements influence in one way or another the 
potential or actual strength of political units. But none of these lists seems 
to me to meet the requirements that theory is entitled to prescribe. 

The elements listed must be homogeneous— in other words, they must be 
situated on the same level of generality in relation to history: the number 
of men, the characteristics of the territory, the quality of arms or organization 
influence the force of nations in all periods; financial resources signified 
nothing for the Mongol conquerors and very little for Alexander. 

The list must be complete, which implies that the elements must be ex¬ 
pressed by concepts which cover the concrete diversity of phenomena, vari¬ 
able from period to period. Even the military implications of a geographical 
situation can be modified by the techniques of transportation and combat, 
but the influence of the geographical situation upon the possibilities of ac¬ 
tion of the political units is a constant factor. 

Lastly, the classification should he such as to permit us to comprehend why 
the factors of power are not the smne from century to century and why the 
measure of power is, in essence, approximate. This last remark is both ob¬ 
vious and, in relation to an abundant literature, paradoxical. Reading the 
theoreticians one would often suppose they have an infallible scale for 
measuring the power of political units with great precision. If such measure¬ 
ment were possible, wars would not occur, since the results would be 
known in advance. Or, at least, wars could be accounted for only by human 
folly. There is no war at sea, Anatole France writes in Penguin Island, since 
the hierarchy of fleets is never subject to doubt. All armies being the Greatest 
in the World, only trial by combat establishes the true hierarchy. 

Let us turn once again to Clausewitz. No one has emphasized more than 
this rationalist theoretician the part chance plays in war. “War is the prov¬ 
ince of chance. In no sphere of human activity is such a margin to be left 
for this intruder, because none is so much in constant contact with him on 
all sides. He increases the uncertainty of every circumstance, and deranges 
the course of events.® “The diversity, and undefined limits, of all the cir¬ 
cumstances bring a great number of factors into consideration in War, [and] 
most of these factors can only be estimated according to probability. ... In 
this sense, Bonaparte was right when he said that many of the questions 
which come before a General for decision would make problems for a 
mathematical calculation not unworthy of the powers of Newton or Euler.® 
And lastly: “The great uncertainty of all data in War is a peculiar difficulty, 
because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, 
which in addition not unfrequently—like the effect of a fog or moonshine- 
gives to things exaggerated dimensions and an unnatural appearance. What 
this feeble light leaves indistinct to the sight talent must discover, or must 

Sdausewitz op. ext., I, 3, p. 49. 

\y\lbid., p. 69. 



be left to chance.^i^By resorting to war, policy surrenders to a high degree 
of uncertainty, “it troubles itself little about final possibilities, confining its 
attention to immediate probabilities.” Of course, “each Cabinet places its 
confidence in the belief that in this game it will surpass its neighbor in 
skill and sharpsightedness.’d But its confidence is not always confirmed by 
the event. 

Can we imagine that a theoretician of power could eliminate war’s un¬ 
certainty by adding up the weight of various elements, and announce in 
advance the result of the combat? Now the power or capacity of a collec¬ 
tivity to impose its will upon another should not be confused with its military 
capacity. But if the outcome of battle is uncertain, it is because military 
force cannot be measured exactly, and total power still less than military 

I propose to distinguish three fundamental elements: first of all the space 
occupied by the political units; second the available materials and the tech¬ 
niques by which they can be transformed into weapons, the number of men 
and the art of transforming them into soldiers (or, again, the quantity and 
quality of implements and combatants ); and last the collective capacity for 
action, which includes the organization of the army, the discipline of the 
combatants, the quality of the civil and military command, in w'ar and in 
peace, and the solidarity of the citizens during the conflict in the face of 
good or bad luck. These three terms, in their abstract expression, account 
for the total situation, since they are equivalent to the proposition: the 
power of a collectivity depends on the theater of its action and on its 
capacity to use available material and human resources. Milieu, resources, 
collective action, such are, from every evidence, whatever the century and 
whatever the forms of competition among political units, the determinants 
of power. 

These three terms are equally valid for the analysis of power on all 
levels, from the tactical level of small units to the strategic level on which 
armies of millions of men confront each other, and to the diplomatic level 
on which states continuously compete. The power of a French army com¬ 
pany confronting an FLN company depends on the terrain, the troops, the 
weapons, and lastly on the discipline and command of the two companies. 
On the superior level of strategy or politics, the capacity to organize the 
army, to mobilize civilians, to train soldiers is, so to speak, integral with the 
military strength and seems to appertain to the second term, while the 
conduct of the military leaders, their strategic and diplomatic talent, and 
the resolve of the people alone seem to represent the third. 

This enumeration suggests not so much universally valid propositions as 
the means of accounting for historical changes. Only the first term partially 
escapes the vicissitudes of the techniques of production and destruction. 

53 Ibid., II, 2, p. 105. 

nn ibid., vm, 6 , p. 122. 



Certain situations favor defensive powerful in other words, put obstacles 
in the conqueror’s way: mountains, rivers, deserts and distances. Most often, 
the same terrain that offers relative protection to a collectivity thereby reduces 
its possibilities of external intervention. “Small states’® regard as heaven¬ 
sent the barriers created by nature, since they do not claim starring roles 
and are uninterested in offensive power. Yet the defensiv^^l power of a 
collectivity is a function of the characteristics of the space it occupies. 

Mountains account for Switzerland’s exceptional capacity for wartime 
defense, while distance has kept Russia from being entirely occupied ever 
since the dukes of Moscow first shook off the Mongol yoke. Napoleon could 
not overcome the resistance of the Tsar and the muzhiks, nor could Hitler, 
despite more brilliant successes, the Communist state and its people. The 
capture of Moscow did not weaken Tsar Alexander’s resolve; Hitler did not 
take Moscow. Even in 1941-42 Russia owed her salvation to geography and to 
the inadequacies of modernization (the mediocre road system), as well as to 
the factories that were built before the conflict or transferred to the Urals. 

The state with great ambitions must be assured of its own territorial bar¬ 
riers while retaining possibilities of intervention outside itself. Until re¬ 
cently, distance deprived Tsarist and Soviet Russia of a large part of her 
offensive capacity, while it added to her defensive capacity. For centuries 
England’s territory, though far enough from the Continent to make in¬ 
vasion difficult, constituted an ideal base for distant expeditions or even for 
sending expeditionary forces to the Continent. Neither Venice nor Hol¬ 
land possessed a territorial base enjoying such security. France was obliged 
to distribute her resources between army and navy and suffered a particular 
vulnerability because of the relative proximity of her capital to the open 
northern frontier. 

None of these three terms, not even the first, space, is exempt from history. 
It still remains true that a terrain difficult of access increases the political 
unit’s defensive capacity and diminishes its offensive capacity. Because of the 
mountains, the populations living in Algeria could resist modem French pac¬ 
ification as well as they resisted Roman pacification seventeen centuries ago. 
But depending on the techniques of war, England is vulnerable or invulner¬ 
able, the Dover Straits are a knot of strategic routes or an insignificant nar¬ 
rowing between two seas equally closed, land and air offering other practicable 
means of communication. 

HHThere are two aspects of defensive power: in wartime it is the capacity to stop the 
invader; in peacetime it depends on this capacity and also on the cohesion of the unit, 
lid We avoid here the common ejrpression “small powers,” so as not to introduce a 
confusion in vocabulary. The use of the word power to designate the actors and not 
merely the capacity of the actors is self-explanatory. The rivalry of power being part 
and parcel of international life, we identify the actors and their capacity for action, 
and establish a hierarchy of actors as a function of their capacity, 
ill Military. 



Applied to the other two terms, most general propositions would be of 
little or no interest. It might be said that all other things being equal, number 
triumphs on the diplomatic field as on the battlefield. But all other things 
never being equal, this proposition teaches us nothing. We might regard as 
significant the order of the three elements, the effectiveness of weapons, col¬ 
lective action, number of soldiers: extreme inequality in weapons cannot be 
offset by either discipline or number of soldiers. Extreme inequality in or¬ 
ganization and discipline cannot be offset by number (the principle of the 
Romans’ superiority over the barbarians, of regular armies over militias and 
mass risings). But it would be desirable—and it is impossible—to specify the 
degree of inequality which cannot be compensated. Unindustrialized peoples 
have found, in the twentieth century, a means of combat, guerrilla warfare, 
which permits them to protect themselves against peoples equipped with 
every modern weapon. Even in the conflict between political units, if one 
possesses an overwhelming technical superiority, ingenuity and resolution can 
inspire the weaker unit with the secret of a lasting if not victorious resistance. 

The historical or sociological analysis of the elements of the total force of 
the units involved has two principal stages: first, to establish what the ele¬ 
ments of military strength are. In each period a system of combat proves 
effective through a combination of certain weapons, a certain organization, 
and an adequate quantity of weapons and combatants. 

The second stage of the analysis concerns the relations between military 
strength and the collectivity itself. To what degree is superiority in arms and 
organization the expression of a technical and social superiority (supposing 
that the latter two kinds of superiority can be determined objectively)? An 
army is always a social organization, the expression of the entire collectivity. 
The degree of mobilization—that is, the proportion of fighting men actually 
mobilized—depends on the structure of the society, the number of citizens in 
relation to non-citizens (if only citizens are accorded the honor of bearing 
arms), the number of nobles if the society in question is one in which par¬ 
ticipation in combat is forbidden to commoners. 

In all societies and at all periods there has been a limit to mobilization: 
enough men must be left at work in order to produce the resources indis¬ 
pensable to the life of the collectivity (the theoretical degree of mobilization 
rises if there is a peasant overpopulation, if the same harvest can be obtained 
with a reduced number of workers). But the actual degree has rarely reached 
or even approached the theoretical degree, the extent of mobilization being 
determined by social circumstances, the traditional means of combat, or the 
fear of giving weapons to a portion of the population regarded as inferior or 
potentially hostile. 

Insofar as the organization of the army and the means of combat resulted 
from custom, it is understandable that the superiority of an army or of a 
weapon could be extended for decades, even for centuries. The minority that 
held a monopoly of weapons within the collectivity was in a position to main- 



tain its rule almost indefinitely—unless it grew corrupt, that is, lost its co¬ 
hesion and its determination. The political unit that perfected an effective 
combination of various weapons (light and heavy cavalry, light and heavy 
infantry, impact weapons and projectiles, lance and armor, etc.), had a chance 
of maintaining its superiority for a long time. It was tempting to attribute to 
virtue the greatness of the imperial peoples and to regard their superiority of 
weapons as proof of a total superiority of customs and culture. 

Without proceeding to a detailed study, it is clear that the ratio between 
the collectivity’s resources and military strength becomes stricter as war itself 
becomes more rationalized, and the mobilization of civilians and the means of 
production are considered normal and are put into practice. It is in the twenti¬ 
eth century that we have had the misleading illusion that by measuring re¬ 
sources we are measuring military strength and power itself. It is true that 
in the age of total mobilization the military system is inevitably related to the 
mass of the collectivity. But the virtue of the minority can still incline the 
balance to one side or the other, and in many ways quality limits the domi¬ 
nation of quantity. The conquest of vast empires by a leader and his comrades 
belongs to the past, EE or at least the small troop must begin by conquering 
its own country, which will serve as a base. But one must have a weakness 
for historical analogies to identify the adventures of Genghis Khan with those 
of Lenin and the Bolshevik party. Genghis Khan was chiefly a military 
genius, Lenin primarily a political genius. One mustered his armies by im¬ 
posing himself as their leader and eliminating his rivals, the other was origi¬ 
nally a prophet without arms; he avoided forceful means by using the tech¬ 
niques of persuasion. 

3. Power in Peacetime and in Wartime 

The power of a political unit in peacetime can be analyzed by using the 
same categories—geographical milieu, resources, capacity for action—but 
whereas power in wartime depends primarily on military strength and the use 
made of it, power in peacetime—that is, the ability to keep others from im¬ 
posing their will on the unit in question or to impose that unit’s will upon 
others—also depends on the various means whose use is admitted as legitimate 
by international custom in each period. Instead of considering the military 
system, we must consider the non-violent means (or the violent means toler¬ 
ated in peacetime). As for the capacity for collective action, it is expressed 
aggressively by the art of convincing or constraining without recourse to 
force, and defensively by the art of not letting oneself be deceived, terrified, 
upset or divided. 

Between "power in peacetime” and “power in wartime,” Europe’s tradi¬ 
tional diplomacy assumed a vague relationship. The political units considered 

El Even in die twentieth century Ibn Saud relied on swordsmanship in his struggle to 
unify the Arab tribes. 


5 8 

to be the great powers were defined, above all, by the volume of their re¬ 
sources (territories and populations) and their military strength. Prussia in 
the eighteenth century, Japan at the beginning of the twentieth, were re¬ 
ceived on a basis of equality by the club of the great powers because they had 
proved themselves on the battlefield. 

The status of great nation confers certain rights: no matter of importance 
can be treated in a system without all the great nations being consulted. 
When one great nation had obtained or extorted an advantage somewhere, the 
others, whether partners or rivals, insisted on their right to he compensated. 

The status of great power was advantageous insofar as peaceful exchanges 
and negotiated agreements tended to reflect the relation of forces (supposed 
rather than real). A small nation was inclined to yield to a great one because 
the latter was stronger. The great nation, when isolated in a conference, 
yielded to the will of a coalition whose combined potential was greater than 
its own. Nations referred to force in order to conclude a suit peacefully, be¬ 
cause this reference seemed to offer a relatively objective criterion and was 
a substitute for the test of weapons, whose issue was imagined to be deter¬ 
mined in advance by the relation of forces. Gradually, and especially since 
the Second World War, this policed intercourse, this wise Machiavellianism, 
has vanished. 

Between the two wars, diplomats committed such errors—overestimating 
Italy’s strength to the point of absurdity, underestimating the power of Soviet 
Russia—that the very notion of a "great power” has now become suspect. The 
great powers of yesterday’s Europe, Great Britain and France, seek to remain 
the great powers of global diplomacy, and their claims appear to be ratified by 
a permanent seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. But the 
real status of these great powers is in reality so uncertain that such official 
status scarcely affords them any prestige or advantage. Atomic weapons dis¬ 
credit the traditional concepts: weapons become less usable as they become 
more monstrous. The politeness and cynicism of good society have vanished 
from the chancelleries. Diplomacy, in the traditional sense of the term, func¬ 
tions up to a certain point among allies, but hardly any longer among enemies, 
or even between the blocs and the neutral nations. Lastly and above all, no 
nation, small or great, considers itself obliged to yield to a nation stronger 
than itself once the stronger nation is not in a position to use its strength 
effectively. The tactic of the “challenge” ("you won’t dare to force me”) ap¬ 
pears in the ordinary process of international relations® As a matter of fact, 
states permanently practice a kind of total diplomacy which involves the use 
of economic, political and psychological procedures, of violent and semi- 
violent means. 

To constrain a state or convince it to yield, another state or coalition of 

unit also includes “misfires.” Used by M. Bourguiba in July 1961, this tactic pro¬ 
voked a violent reply on the part of the French troops. 



states may resort to economic pressure. By the decision of the League of Na¬ 
tions, sanctions were decreed against Italy: a prohibition against buying and 
selling certain merchandise. This pseudo-blockade was ineffectual because it 
was not general. Italy found enough customers to carry out her vital minimum 
of foreign trade. The prohibition against selling to her was not extended to 
materials whose scarcity might have dealt her a mortal blow. The blockade by 
which the Soviet bloc attempted to liquidate the Yugoslav dissidence was not 
any more effective, the West having come to the support of the state whose 
very existence bore witness to the possible separation between the Marxist 
regime and the adherents to the Soviet camp. The United States, in its turn, 
vainly attempted to destroy Fidel Castro by blockade. 

Yet economic means are not always ineffective. The examples just given 
have a particular character: they all involve, in effect, an attempt at eco¬ 
nomic constraint or even the utilization of economic means as substitutes for 
military means. The failure is significant, but it has as its cause the impossi¬ 
bility of a universal coalition against a state. The weapon of the blockade 
could be, in our age, irresistible; however, it would require that the “criminal” 
state find no external allies. Up to now, such a hypothetical situation has 
never been realized. 

On the other hand, in bilateral relations, economic means are useful, even 
indispensable, to reaffirm a friendship or cement a coalition. The Marshall 
Plan led to the Atlantic Alliance. The state that buys a great deal from others 
is in a position to influence the states of which it is the chief customer (the 
collapse of the market for raw materials is a catastrophe for the state which 
derives the greatest share of its trade resources from exporting this product). 
A state is also capable of influencing those states that expect financial aid 
from it or that feel dependent on its economic system. Today, particularly, 
the consent of the so-called underdeveloped nations to remain within a 
political circuit is a function of the assistance that they find there for their 
industrialization. Henceforth a state has few chances to maintain its sover¬ 
eignty over numerous peoples if it is incapable of assuming responsibility for 
raising their standard of living. 

On the economic level as well, the distinction appears between defensive 
capacity and offensive capacity. An underdeveloped nation often has a great 
capacity to resist eventual sanctions: only a small fraction of the population 
would be affected by the interruption of foreign trade. On the other hand, a 
great state that wants to create and lead a coalition with a minimum reliance 
on force requires economic resources (technicians, available capital for invest¬ 
ment abroad, etc.). 

The political means that states have used throughout history in their peace¬ 
time intercourse consist of actions affecting either the elite or the masses of 
the political units. In every century the great states have infiltrated the small 
states, through agents and money, corrupting consciences or recruiting loyal¬ 
ties. For a long time the presence of “foreign parties” was considered the 



effect and the symbol of weakness. Those states were “Balkanized” whose 
foreign policy was the object of dispute among various parties, each of which, 
reserving its preferences for a great state, could be accused of serving a foreign 

A new factor, in our century—one implied by our democratic customs—is 
that the masses are courted just as much as the leading minorities by the 
words and the spokesmen of the aggressive states. Each of the blocs, each of 
the giants, attempts to convince the governed, on the other side of the line of 
demarcation, that they are exploited, oppressed, abused. The war of propa¬ 
ganda, the war of radio, marks the permanence of the conflict among states 
and the ceaseless recourse to means of pressure. In this interplay, power is not 
a function of military strength or economic resources. One regime is better 
suited for export through advertising, another state is better able to recruit 
disinterested representatives or more willing to supply money for the rape of 

Here, too, the factors of defensive capacity are quite different from those 
of offensive capacity. The supreme, almost unique condition of defensive 
power is the cohesion of the collectivity, the adherence of the people to the 
regime, the agreement among members of the elite concerning the national 
interest. Switzerland or Sweden, which have virtually no desire or possibility 
of influencing the thought or action of other nations, are less vulnerable to 
foreign pressures. 

Beyond economic and psycho-political means—and increasingly in our pe¬ 
riod-states use violence in peacetime. I shall distinguish symbolic violence 
and clandestine or sporadic violence. Symbolic violence is the kind expressed 
by what is called gunboat diplomacy. The sending of a warship to the harbor 
of a nation not paying its debts, attempting to deny its commitments or to 
nationalize a concession granted to a foreign company, symbolized the ca¬ 
pacity and the resolution to constrain, if necessary by armed force. The sym¬ 
bol was enough. The transition to the act was never actually necessary. Re¬ 
called to order, the “weak nation” had no recourse but to yield. The day the 
transition to the act of violence risks becoming normally necessary, symbolic 
violence falls into desuetude. The Franco-British expedition to Suez in 1956 
might perhaps have been rational if an internal opposition had been ready to 
overthrow Nasser, if the latter, in the hour of danger, had found himself 
alone or had suddenly lost his courage. The simulacrum of violence would 
have been convincing enough. 

If symbolic violence appertains to the nineteenth century, sporadic or clan¬ 
destine violence belongs to the twentieth. Clandestine violence—attacks in the 
shadows—is always sporadic; the sporadic violence of partisans is often com¬ 
mitted out in the open. Terrorist networks in cities are clandestine, partisan 
forces are scattered, but they eventually wear uniforms and live openly in 
the djebels or maquis (underbrush). Some states not at war with each other 



fight, in peacetime, by means of terrorists and partisans. Egypt trained ter¬ 
rorist teams and sent them into Israeli territory. Algerian partisans were 
trained in Egypt or Morocco, "the army of liberation” was supplied from 
Tunisia and Morocco. It is now assumed that the peacetime use of speech 
and small arms to overthrow a state regime is not contradictory to interna¬ 
tional law. Here, too, defensive power depends on national unity: revolu¬ 
tionaries do not succeed if they do not find some voluntary complicity among 
the people. The capacity to use violence for repression is also a determinant 
of defensive power against subversive efforts. In Hungary the Soviet Union 
lost on the level of “prestige of morality,” but won on the level of “prestige of 
cruelty.” As Machiavelli said, it is sometimes preferable for the sovereign to 
be feared than to he loved. 

The capacity for collective action in peacetime is manifested either by the 
use of these various means or by the resistance to these same means shown 
by the rival states. The diplomatic capacity, strictly speaking, has a double 
aspect: it is either, in the largest sense, the use of all these means and the 
choice of appropriate ones among them, or, in the more limited sense, it is the 
quality of action as a result of which a state makes friends and disarms pos¬ 
sible adversaries, and the meeting of negotiators ends favorably. 

Diplomacy without means of economic or political pressure, without sym¬ 
bolic or clandestine violence, would be pure persuasion. Perhaps it does not 
exist. Perhaps “pure” diplomacy still suggests, however implicitly, that it 
would be in a position to intimidate if it resolved to do so. At least pure di¬ 
plomacy makes every effort to convince both adversary and onlookers that it 
desires to persuade or convince, not to constrain. The adversary must have 
the illusion of freedom, even when he is in fact yielding to force. 

Diplomacy approaches pure diplomacy when it acts upon neutrals and 
independents, when its goal is to win sympathy or disarm prejudice. In dip¬ 
lomatic meetings, above all when the negotiators are in each other’s presence 
and exchange arguments, words are paramount, since the interlocutors speak 
and listen. Thus negotiation is for diplomacy the equivalent of engagement 
for strategy: it is the cash with which credit operations are made good. 

Yet a fundamental difference persists. Diplomatic preparation leads to the 
conference table as military preparation to a trial by arms. But the negotia¬ 
tors’ margin of maneuver is limited by the potential forces of coalitions (when 
there have been no hostilities), by the faits acconrplis of battle (when the 
war has taken place): by manipulating disagreements among the adversaries, 
a negotiator can occasionally repair the damages wrought by arms. But in this 
case, it is less the tete-a-tete of negotiation than the adulterated diplomatic 
interplay—the regrouping of forces—which has transformed the situation. On 
the other hand, once military action begins, the essentials are in the balance, 
that is, victory or defeat Pure diplomatic dialogue confirms the sanction of 
events, the event judges among rival claims. 



4. The Uncertainties of the Measurement of Power 

It may be useful to consider a particular case in order to specify the less 
abstract terms in which the three fundamental categories, milieu, means, and 
capacity for collective action, are projected in a given historical period—say 
the 1919-39 period. 

Combat technique and army organization, between the two world wars, 
were such that total mobilization was both legitimate and possible. All the 
citizens in condition to fight could be uniformed as soldiers, providing in¬ 
dustry was able to equip them. Total mobilization being the rule, the poten¬ 
tial of military strength seemed to vary directly with economic potential. Yet 
this relationship was actually subject to many reservations, both quantitative 
and qualitative. 

It was difficult to determine the economic quantity by which military po¬ 
tential could be measured. Whether one selected the gross national product, 
total industrial production or certain industrial statistics, any index chosen in¬ 
volved an error. The index of the gross national product was an inexact 
measurement because agricultural production or services cannot be mobilized 
for the war effort like the metallurgic or mechanical industries. The same 
was true for the index of industrial production, for workers and machines 
cannot be transferred from biscuit factory to aeronautics plant as easily as 
automobile manufacture can be converted to tanks. Lastly, if only the figures 
of heavy industry or factory production were used, there was a risk of error in 
the contrary direction. With sufficient time, transfers of workers and machines 
can proceed to great lengths. France’s industrial war effort between 1914 and 
1918, despite the occupation of part of her territory, was remarkable: by the 
end of hostilities the American army also was utilizing cannons and shells of 
French manufacture. It is true that at the time, weapons and even planes were 
relatively simple so far as scientific knowledge and technological potential 
were concerned. 

The transition from economic potential to military strength also depends, 
in modem times, on the “capacity for collective action” in the form of tech¬ 
nical-administrative capacity. A German professor whose name has today 
fallen into oblivion, J. Plenge, published, in 1916, an interesting worklll 
whose central theme is the antithesis between the ideas of 1789 and those 
of 1914. Ultimately the ideas of 1914 recall one key word: organization. For 
the whole nation to work in terms of the war—some men in uniform, others 
in factories or offices, others in the fields, all producing what is necessary to 
nourish population and battle alike—the administration must be capable of 
redistributing the population among the necessary jobs, reducing to a mini¬ 
mum the number of workers who produce those goods that are not indispens¬ 
able, and assigning to each man the task to which he is best suited. During 

0 1789 nnd 1914. Die symbolischen Jahre in der Geschichte des ■politischen Geistes, 
Berlin, 1916. 



the last war it was Great Britain, among the Western powers, which achieved 
the highest percentage of mobilization. Hitler’s Germany started the conflict 
without having mobilized either all its industry or all its manpower, it had not 
resolved upon total mobilization after the Polish campaign nor after the 
French campaign, nor even after the Wehrmacht’s invasion of Russia. It was 
not until Stalingrad that the total mobilization of German resources was un¬ 
dertaken, although millions of workers had been recruited from occupied 

In wartime the degree of mobilization is chiefly a function of administrative 
capacity, but also, in part, of the people’s acceptance of sacrifice. Beyond a 
certain point the war effort cannot be increased except by reducing the level 
of the standard of living of the civilian population. How far can this re¬ 
duction go without affecting the level of morale? This question cannot be an¬ 
swered in any general way. It would seem, however, that peoples accustomed 
to a low standard of living accept privations more easily than those accustomed 
to a higher standard of living, which tends to reverse the purely theoretical 
proposition: the margin of mobilization is directly proportional to the standard 
of living. In the abstract, the gap between the actual condition of the people 
and the incompressible minimum is greater in rich countries than in poor 
countries, but the former cannot always do without what the latter classify as 

Lastly, belligerents wage war with actually mobilized, not potential forces. 
Now the former depend on space and time, on the map and on the course of 
hostilities. The total potential may be paralyzed or amputated by the lack of 
certain raw materials (what would be the use of millions of tanks if they had 
no gas?). Conversely, master}' of the seas combined with financial reserves or 
foreign loans can add to the actual potential that of the legally neutral nations 
(as from the United States, from 1914 to 1917, to the Allies’ benefit). But 
the experience of the First World War had given the Franco-British powers, 
in 1939, an ill-founded assurance. They assumed in advance the benefit of 
duration. In the long run the mobilization of the Western world’s resources 
guaranteed them superiority and a victory by attrition. Still, it was essential 
that defeat in the first phases of the hostilities did not put the industrial po¬ 
tential of a fragment of the coalition into the enemy’s hands. Without the 
victory of the Marne in 1914, there would not have been a total mobilization 
of the French potential. Without the Battle of Britain, there would not have 
been, starting in 1940, a total mobilization of the British and later the Amer¬ 
ican potential. In 1939 the Franco-British potential represented only figures 
on paper if the two democracies did not have available time and freedom of 
the seas. France had no time, Great Britain, in spite of everything, retained 
freedom of the seas. 

Once military forces are recognized as a function of the human and in¬ 
dustrial potential, with the reservations we have just indicated, the question 
becomes one of quality. In each phase, what would be the relative value of 



a German, French, English, Italian or American division? The only true 
measurement is combat itself. Therefore, in peacetime, the evaluation, a 
problematical one, is made according to the experience of preceding battles. 
Until the battle of Jena the Prussian army maintained the prestige of the 
victories of Frederick the Great. Until 1940 the French army still appeared 
to be that of Verdun (1916) or of Champagne (1918). 

Whether it was a question of cannon or army, the same question was 
raised: to what degree was the quality of weapons the reflection of indus¬ 
trial production? To what degree was the effectiveness of the troops the 
expression of the martial vigor of the people? In other words, could military 
force be estimated according to the state of the nation? Or did military 
force depend primarily on factors peculiar to the military system itself? 

Hitler did not believe that the United States could acquire, in the very 
course of hostilities, an army of the first rank, for by reason of the funda¬ 
mentally pacificist, commercial attitude of the American people, there was 
no military tradition or class comparable to the German officers corps. The 
Fiihrer, to his misfortune and our salvation, was mistaken. A double dem¬ 
onstration has been convincingly presented: providing officers for the troops 
is no less important in the twentieth than in the nineteenth century, but 
this no longer requires a social class dedicated to the profession of arms. 
Many military problems—organization, logistics—resemble the problems of 
industry or transportation. Technicians rapidly learn the tasks that they must 
fulfill within the military system, and that resemble those of their civilian 
profession. But further, the citizens of a prosperous nation furnish soldiers, 
officers and non-commissioned officers capable of sustaining the rigors and 
dangers of modem battle. 

In other words, the miracle of a leader of men giving his nation, by 
genius or good luck, an honorable place on the world’s stage, the adventure 
of a Mehemet Ali, though still possible in the last century, is no longer so 
today. When regular armies are involved, the human and industrial potential 
assigns narrow limits to the action of the leader. There is no great modem 
army without a great industry behind it. Any nation provided with a great 
industry is capable of establishing a great army. 

The two propositions, relative to what is and is not possible, being es¬ 
tablished on the theoretical level, the error would have been to attribute to 
an incontestable relation a rigor it did not have. Equipped in the same way, 
two divisions were not equivalent. The role of a dozen German armored 
divisions, which took a decisive part in the Polish and French campaigns, 
then in the first victories on the Russian front, would remind us, if necessary, 
that battle elites exist in the century of quantity. In the last case it seems 
that training and technical perfection went hand in hand with the passion 
of the officers and the soldiers to create an instrument which irremediably 
exhausted itself before Moscow in November-December 1941. The Wehr- 
macht still won its victories, it had other shock troops, but it never again 


found the equivalent of that armored force which had been its spearhead 
in the east, the west, and then again in the east. 

That the quality of the military order and the effectiveness of the army 
are influenced by the political regime and the national psychology cannot 
be doubted. Depending on the prestige of the profession of arms, depending 
on the material and moral position of the officers within the nation, the 
recruiting of military cadres will be more or less good, better minds will be 
attracted to the study of national defense or will turn from it. It is doubtful 
that the circumstances to which the German army had owed the quality of 
its command will be reproduced in the Federal Republic. Neither the 
aristocracy of public service, nor faith in the country’s greatness, nor the 
prestige of the uniform exist in a Federal Republic without colonized 
lands to the east, without Junkers, without imperial prospects. 

Of these complex and subtle relations, popular phrases, current in certain 
periods, give us a caricature notion: “There is no discipline in the army 
when there is no discipline in the nation.” The formula is quoted by Renan 
with praise: as a matter of fact the apparent anarchy within the democracies 
does not exclude discipline in factories or barracks. From 1945 to 1958 the 
Fourth Republic sought a stable government: all the officers bore witness to 
the discipline of the men in their contingents. On the other hand, propa¬ 
gandists of the Fascist Right were finally caught in their own fictions and 
imagined that the Duce had transformed the Italians into a nation of lions 
and had given Italy (with neither coal nor steel), a first-rank military force. 
Spengler had already attributed to Mussolini the empire of North Africa, 
fallen from the decadent hands of French democracy. 

Similarly, an industry on a high technical level will normally furnish 
effective arms, but Western peacetime industry aims at raising the labor out¬ 
put, hence at producing as cheaply as possible. Cost is not a decisive factor 
when it is weapons that are being manufactured. A nation which invests a 
great deal of money and uses its best minds in industries directly oriented 
toward war production will eventually possess arms as good or better than 
those of a rival whose industry has nonetheless a superior average pro¬ 
ductivity (such is the case in the United States and the Soviet Union). 

Let us not forget, finally, that with regard to the quality of weapons in 
our age, nothing is ever established once and for all. The race toward im¬ 
provement continues during the hostilities themselves. The time necessary 
for the development of certain weapons was such that the First World War 
was ended with models used since the beginning of hostilities (long-range 
naval cannon). But artillery was a traditional weapon which, until the 
advent of electronics and automatic adjustment, showed only slow improve¬ 
ments during the First World War and the period between the wars. On 
the other hand, aviation progressed rapidly from 1914 to 1918, then from 
1919 to 1939 (especially during the last years before the war), and 
finally during the course of the Second World War. The side that at 



the end of the war had machines available or models perfected at the be¬ 
ginning of hostilities would have been immediately outclassed. In 1941 the 
Japanese possessed the Zero, the best fighter plane in action in the Far 
East. But they could not stay in the race: in 1945 they were forced to use 
suicide planes while their fleet was being destroyed. The scientific-tech¬ 
nological competition which the rivalry of military forces has henceforth in¬ 
volved can never be won. Qualitatively and quantitatively, the advantage 
shifts from one camp to the other. French aviation in the last war would 
have been quite different if it had had another six months—in other words, 
if industrial mobilization had been undertaken six months earlier, or if the 
battle had broken out six months later. On the whole, a state with a tech¬ 
nologically superior industry has better chances of winning: still, we must 
not forget that by a greater concentration in one sector, a country’s industry 
can make up for its backwardness as a whole, and that, in peacetime 
manufactures as well, the palm of victory is not always awarded to the same 

Beyond these calculations of force, we must take into account the in¬ 
telligence of the high command and the conduct of the war by the statesmen 
on either side, and lastly the adherence of the peoples to the regime, their 
resolution when put to the test. Would the Soviet people be loyal to the 
state and the party in charge of agrarian collectivization and the great 
purges? Would the German and Italian people enthusiastically follow their 
Fiihrer and their Duce? Were the people in the democracies capable of 
facing the horrors of battle? Whether military leaders or peoples were in¬ 
volved, the answers, formulated in advance, could not be proved, the knowl¬ 
edge on which they were based was not transferable. 

The answer given by events themselves was above all a refutation of the 
relations supposed to exist between the behavior of peoples and the nature 
of the regime. The Italians were never convinced that the war fought at 
the side of the Third Reich was really their own and justified supreme 
sacrifices: the partisans who fought the German troops in northern Italy 
after the fall of Fascism bore witness to a morale quite different from that 
of the soldiers (ill-equipped, moreover) in Libya. The German people did 
not desert their Fiihrer but, in the ruling circles, the conspiracy of July 20 
had wide ramifications: the National Socialist regime was basically much 
less united than the British or American democracy. In the Soviet Union 
there was no conspiracy in leading circles, but during the first phase of 
the hostilities, a fraction of the people, particularly the non-Russian groups, 
received the invaders without hostility, and certain troops showed little ar¬ 
dor. In short, the two nations of Europe in which regime and people stood 
together, in 1939, were Hitler’s Germany and democratic England, with 
this reservation, that national unity was more capable of resisting defeat in 
England than in Germany. 

In terms of these calculations, what observations are suggested by the 



post eventum analysis of the events of the thirties? The totalitarian nations 
were in peacetime, with equal forces, more powerful than the democratic 
nations. They presented a fagade of unity, whereas the latter paraded their 
disputes. France and Great Britain were saturated, conservative nations, 
whereas Italy and Germany were assertive nations. Regimes in which one 
man commands, in which the deliberations occur in secret, are more capable 
of suggesting irresistible force and flawless resolution than those regimes 
whose press is free and whose parliament debates. In the diplomatic poker 
game the totalitarian state often bluffs and almost always wins—until the 
day when another nation calls the bluff. 

Italian politics, from 1935 to 1941, consisted of a series of “bluffs” and 
“bets.” When Mussolini proclaimed that he was ready to declare war on 
Great Britain and France rather than give up the conquest of Ethiopia, 
according to all probabilities he was bragging of what he would have been 
incapable of doing. What occurred in 1943 would have probably happened 
in 1936 had Mussolini been mad enough to involve Italy in a conflict, 
lost in advance, against the Franco-British alliance. He prevailed because 
the partisans of sanctions did not want to run the risk of war, and because 
the ruling circles of France and Great Britain were not unanimous as to the 
advantage and the consequences of an eventual overthrow of Fascism. In 
1940 there was no longer question of a bluff but of a bet—a bet that the 
war was virtually over and that by intervening, Italy would receive a larger 
share of the spoils. 

The German venture had an entirely different style. It was subdivided 
into two phases. Between January 1933 and March 1936 Germany would 
not have had the strength to resist a military response from France. Hitler 
assumed what at least looked like risks by successively violating all the 
principal clauses of the Versailles Treaty. His diplomatic technique was 
that of challenge: he defied France to use force in forbidding Germany 
decisions which tended simply to suppress the inequalities resulting from 
the Versailles Treaty. Challenged, France relied on protests—the worst of 
solutions between the two extremes (equally unacceptable to French pub¬ 
lic opinion) of frank acceptance and military action. 

From 1936 on, the technique of challenge continued, but in another form. 
Hitler defied France and England to use military means because such means 
henceforth signified a general war which Germany still had every chance of 
losing but that constituted, in any case, a catastrophe for the saturated and 
conservative states. After 1938 Hitler’s Germany had a superiority of 
actual forces, not so great as it tended to claim, as we have since learned, 
but sufficient to conquer Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Poland in 1939. In 
case of a general war the Western powers could not win except in the 
long run, by the mobilization of their superior potential. Hitler had only 
one last stage to cover in order to acquire an apparently serious possibility 
of victory, even in case of a general war: to neutralize the principal enemy 



to the east (the Soviet Union) while he first liquidated the secondary 
enemy to the east (Poland) and then the Continental enemy to the west. 

From this moment on, the calculation of potentials no longer signified 
anything, since every enterprise was based on the succession of campaigns 
and bets: to conquer Poland before France intervened, France before Great 
Britain was mobilized and the Soviet Union belligerent, the Soviet Union 
before Great Britain was in a position to land on the Continent. All these 
bets were won, save the last. Protected by the guarantee the Western 
powers had given Poland, Stalin decided to reserve his forces by signing 
the pact with Hitler. Poland was eliminated without the French army’s 
moving; France was eliminated from the conflict when Great Britain had 
only a dozen divisions. But Great Britain was neither invaded in 1940 nor 
paralyzed by bombings. The Soviet army, despite the disasters suffered in 
1941, made a recovery before Moscow. This final lost bet determined all 
the consequences. In December 1941 the United States was swept into the 
war by the Japanese aggression. The war on two fronts, a war Germany 
had already waged and lost, a war the German general staff had not ceased 
to fear and considered as lost in advance, announced the pitiless ruin of the 
Fiihrer’s hopes. The Germans in opposition, who had foreseen the East- 
West coalition in case of general war and therefore the defeat of the Third 
Reich, saw their anticipations confirmed. The bets and successes had merely 
retarded the fatal outcome. 

The Japanese bet, in 1941, was senseless, since on paper the Empire of 
the Rising Sun had no chance of winning and could avoid losing only if 
the Americans were too lazy or cowardly to conquer. Hitler’s bet was 
risky and a legitimate leader would not have made it, since Germany could 
have obtained more, without fighting, by the mere threat of war, and since 
the dangers of defeat were so extreme. But the bet was not lost in advance. 

Hitler won on all points until the armistice of June 1940. This, to use 
Clausewitz’s terms, was the culminating 'point of victory. From this moment 
on, he multiplied his mistakes. He could not determine whether to treat 
France as an irreducible enemy or a recoverable ally; he hesitated to invade 
England and finally decided to use the unemployed Wehrmacht in a Rus¬ 
sian campaign. Directing diplomacy, he himself forged the great alliance 
which he had so labored to prevent. Directing strategy, he did not have the 
courage to proceed to that ultimate concentration of forces that might have 
given him decisive successes. Directing the conduct of the armies them¬ 
selves, he made on-the-spot resistance into a categorical imperative. As a 
military leader, he hoped until the end for a disintegration of the enemy 
coalition and finally died in a Wagnerian catastrophe, having long since 
lost contact with reality. 

Hitler had no monopoly on mistakes. If, in the last analysis, Stalin out¬ 
witted him, one dares not attribute the sole merit for this to his genius. 



Once Germany was eliminated, there was no obstacle to Russian penetration 
of Europe. Had the Americans been aware, in 1942, of the contradiction 
between Soviet and American interests, the master of the Kremlin would 
have had a difficult role to play. This was not the case. Invited to intervene 
in order to deliver the coup de grace to Japan and authorized to occupy 
Eastern Europe as far as central Germany, Stalin accepted, without having 
to be asked twice, what was so graciously offered. 

What is the role of power or of force in international relations? The 
question is now classical in military schools in the United States. The 
answer is not unambiguous because the same concept of power designates, 
as we have seen, resources, military forces and power. 

The status of a political unit within an international system is fixed by 
the size of material or human resources that it can devote to diplomatic- 
strategic action. The great powers, in each period, are reputed capable of 
devoting considerable resources to external action and, in particular, of 
mobilizing numerous cohorts. International society involves a hierarchy of 
prestige which approximately reflects the hierarchy established by preceding 

Relations of forces also establish, to a large extent, the hierarchy within 
alliances: but this hierarchy does not necessarily express the relation of 
power, the highest-ranking state imposing its will on those beneath it. 
Once the superior state cannot employ military force, it must use means of 
pressure, indirect and often ineffective, or else methods of persuasion. Al¬ 
liances are always directed by the great powers, but the small power some¬ 
times takes the great where the latter would not have chosen to go. The 
small power has the last word in a discussion that concerns its own interests 
because it forces the great power to choose between concession or the use of 
force. The tactic of refusal or obstruction, as General de Gaulle practiced 
it between 1940 and 1944 with regard to Great Britain and the United 
States, often permitted the weaker entity to impose its will. Once the Free 
French were established in St. Pierre and Miquelon, the United States could 
not drive them out except by force and, in the middle of the war, Roosevelt 
could not give orders to fight Frenchmen who symbolized their country 
then occupied by the common enemy. 

Even relations among rival states are not, in normal times, the pure and 
simple expression of relations of force. The negotiators make mistakes as to 
each other’s forces and, further, do not consider themselves obliged to con¬ 
clude the land of agreement that would emerge from the test of war. So 
long as men “talk” instead of “fight,” reasons of fact and of law are not 
without influence on the interlocutor. Diplomacy, a substitute for war, is not 
limited to putting on record, at every moment, the latter’s supposed con¬ 
clusion. “That each receives according to the achievements of his weapons,” 



as General de Gaulle has said^is true only in its vague sense and in the 
long run. Valid as a counsel of wisdom—states must not assume objectives 
disproportionate to their resources—this formula implies, if taken literally, 
an underestimation of the subtlety of relations between independent col¬ 

The disproportion between the potential of nations and the accomplish¬ 
ments of their diplomacy is often caused by the regrouping of units against 
that power among them that seems about to assume the role of "trouble¬ 
maker.” By definition, sovereign states regard as an enemy any claiming 
hegemony, that is, any that could deprive them of their own autonomy or 
their capacity to make their own decisions freely. Therefore, a diplomat of 
the classical school, like Bismarck, feared an excessive growth of the Reich’s 
powers. He believed that the Reich should limit its ambitions and thereby 
excuse its ascendency by wisdom and proportion. That his country’s power 
was in the service of justice and European order was, in the eyes of the 
Iron Chancellor, the necessary condition for German security, the means of 
avoiding the coalition of rivals whom the Prussian victories must neither 
humiliate nor disturb. During the first phase after 1870 it was vanquished 
France, not victorious Germany, that made territorial acquisitions. Rarely, 
between 1870 and 1914, did the representative of the Reich manifest a 
capacity to convince commensurate with the armed forces his nation could 
mobilize for war, either from a lack of diplomatic talent, or as a result of 
the spontaneous opposition which any virtually hegemonic state faces. 

“A universal monarchy,” as the eighteenth-century authors called it, or 
else limited enterprises: the alternative was the unwritten law of the Euro¬ 
pean system, as it is of virtually any system of states. Either the great power 
will not tolerate equals, and then must proceed to the last degree of empire, 
or else it consents to stand first among sovereign units, and must win 
acceptance for such pre-eminence. Whatever the choice, it will live in dan¬ 
ger, never having won all the victories necessary, always suspected of as¬ 
piring to domination. 

If states sought to be great in order to enjoy security, they would be 
victims of a strange illusion, but, through history, collective greatness has 
been its own reward. 

EUrhe formula occurs at the end of the report sent by him in January 1940 to the 
French High Command. 

chapter III 

Power, Glory and Idea 

On the Goals of Foreign Policy 

Political units seek to impose their wills upon each other: such is the 
hypothesis on which Clausewitz’s definition of war is based and also the 
conceptual framework of international relations. At this point, one question 
arises: why do political units want to impose their wills upon each other! 1 
What goals does each of them desire and why are these goals incompatible, 
or seem to be so? 

If we focus on the moment at which a generalized war breaks out, it is 
easy to indicate, with more or less precision, the goals chosen by each of the 
states in conflict with the others. In 1914 Austria-Hungary sought to elimi¬ 
nate the threat that the southern Slav claims posed to the dualist monarchy. 
France, which had consented to the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine without 
acknowledging the fact morally, discovered intact and ardent, on the day 
the first cannon thundered, the will to restore her lost provinces to the 
mother country. The Italians claimed lands that once belonged to the Habs- 
burg empire. The Allies were virtually no less divided than their adversaries. 
Tsarist Russia wanted possession of Constantinople and the Dardanelles, 
whereas Great Britain had constantly opposed such ambitions. Only the 
German danger incited London to agree, secretly and on paper, to what it 
had stubbornly refused for over a century. 

Perhaps the Reich inspired its rivals with even greater alarm because its 
war goals were not known. At the moment of its first successes, these goals 
seemed grandiose and vague. Leagues and private groups dreamed of the 
“African belt” or of Mittel Europa. The general staff, as late as 1917-18, 
demanded the annexation or occupation of a part of Belgian territory for 
strategic reasons. A dominant power which does not proclaim definite ob¬ 
jectives is suspected of unlimited ambitions. Provinces (Alsace-Lorraine, 
Trieste), strategic positions (the Dardanelles, the coast of Flanders), re¬ 
ligious symbols (Constantinople), such were the explicit stakes of the con- 


7 2 

flicts among the European states. But simultaneously, the result of the con¬ 
flict would determine the relation of forces, the place of Germany in Europe 
and of Great Britain in the world. Is it possible to distinguish, in an ab¬ 
stract analysis of general scope, the typical goals which states aim at and 
which set them in opposition to each other? 

i. Eternal Objectives 

Let us start from the schema of international relations: the political units, 
proud of their independence, jealous of their capacity to make major de¬ 
cisions on their own, are rivals by the very fact that they are autonomous. 
Each, in the last analysis, can count only on itself. 

What then is the first objective which the political unit may logically 
seek? The response is furnished by Hobbes in his analysis of the state of 
nature. Each political unit aspires to survive. Leaders and led are interested 
in and eager to maintain the collectivity they constitute together by virtue 
of history, race, or fortune. 

If we grant that war is not desired for its own sake, the belligerent power 
that dictates the peace terms at the end of hostilities seeks to create con¬ 
ditions guaranteeing that it need not fight in the immediate future and 
that it may keep the advantages gained through force. We may say that in 
the state of nature, every entity, whether individual or political unit, makes 
security a primary objective. The more severe wars become, the more men 
aspire to security. In Germany, too, from 1914 to 1918, there was speculation 
as to the best methods to insure the nation’s definitive security by disarming 
certain of its adversaries or occupying certain key positions. 

Security, in a world of autonomous political units, can be based either on 
the weakness of rivals (total or partial disarmament) or on force itself. If 
we suppose that security is the final goal of state policy, the effective means 
will be to establish a new relation of forces or to modify the old one so 
that potential enemies, by reason of their inferiority, will not be tempted 
to take the initiative of an aggression. 

The relation between these two terms —security and force —raises many 
problems. On a lower level we may first observe that the maximization of 
resources does not necessarily involve the maximization of security. In 
Europe, traditionally, no state could increase its population, its wealth and 
its soldiers without exciting the fear and jealousy of other states, and 
thereby provoking the formation of a hostile coalition. In any given system 
there exists an optimum of forces; to exceed it will produce a dialectical 
reversal. Additional force involves a relative weakening by a shift of allies 
to neutrality or of neutrals to the enemy camp. 

If security were, by evidence or necessity, the preferential objective, it 
would be possible to determine rational behavior theoretically. It would he 
necessary, in each circumstance, to determine the optimum of force and to 
act in consequence. A more serious difficulty appears as soon as we raise 



questions as to the relation between these two objectives, force and security. 
We concede that man, whether individual or collective, desires to survive. 
But the individual does not subordinate all his desires to his desire for life 
alone. There are goals for which the individual accepts a risk of death. The 
same is true of collective units. The latter do not seek to be strong only in 
order to discourage aggression and enjoy peace; they seek to be strong in 
order to be feared, respected or admired. In the last analysis, they seek to 
be powerful—that is, capable of imposing their wills on their neighbors and 
rivals, in order to influence the fate of humanity, the future of civilization. 
The two objectives are connected: the more strength he has, the less risk 
a man runs of being attacked, but he also finds, in strength as such and in 
the capacity to impose himself upon others, a satisfaction which needs no 
other justification. Security can be a final goal: to be without fear is a fate 
worthy of envy; but power, too, can be a final goal: what does danger mat¬ 
ter once one has known the intoxication of ruling? 

But on this level of abstraction, the enumeration of objectives still does 
not seem to me to be complete: I would add a third term, glory. In the 
essay entitled “On the Balance of Power,” David Humcfi-I explains the be¬ 
havior of the Greek city-states in terms of the spirit of competition rather 
than the calculations of prudence: “It is true, that Grecian wars are re¬ 
garded by historians as wars of emulation rather than of politics; and each 
State seems to have had more in view the honor of leading the rest, than 
any well-grounded hopes of authority and dominion.” Opposing jealous 
emulation to cautious politics, Hume thus formulates the antithesis that we 
shall call the struggle for glory and the struggle for power. 

When the struggle is joined, there is a danger that military victory in 
itself will become the goal, causing political objectives to be forgotten. The 
desire for absolute victory, that is, for a peace dictated without appeal 
by the victor, is often more the expression of a desire for glory than of a 
desire for force. Dislike of relative victories, that is, of a favorable peace 
negotiated after partial successes, derives from the amour-propre that ani¬ 
mates men once they measure themselves against each other. 

It might be objected that glory is merely another name or another aspect 
of power: it is, so to speak, power recognized by others, power whose fame 
spreads across the world. In a sense this objection is valid and the three 
objectives might be reduced to two: either the political units are in quest of 
security and of force, or they seek recognition by imposing their wills, by 
gathering the conqueror’s laurels. One of the two goals, force, is material, 
the other is moral, inseparable from the human dialogue; it is defined by 
grandeur, consecrated by victory and the enemy’s submission. 

The ternary division, however, seems to me preferable because each of 
the three terms corresponds to a concretely defined attitude while it also 
expresses a specific notion. Clemenceau sought the security, Napoleon the 

0 Sce Lelow, |Chapter v[ for a fuller analysis of Hume’s essay. 



power, Louis XIV the glory of France (or each his own).0 In 1918 any 
rational chief of state would have proposed the same goal: to spare France 
the recurrence of a war as severe as the one that an immense alliance had 
just brought to a favorable conclusion. Napoleon, at least after a certain 
date, dreamed of ruling Europe: he was not content with the honor of 
being universally celebrated as a great war leader; even Clausewitz’s hom¬ 
age—“the God of war himself”—would not have satisfied him. He was am¬ 
bitious for reality, not for appearances, and he knew that in the long run 
no state commands others if it does not possess the means of constraining 
them. Louis XIV probably loved glory as much as power. He wanted to be 
recognized as the first among monarchs, and he made use of his force in 
order to seize a city and fortify it, but this half-symbolic exploit was still a 
way of showing his force. He did not conceive of a disproportionately en¬ 
larged France, furnished with resources superior to those of her allied rivals. 
He dreamed that the names of Louis XIV and of France would be trans¬ 
figured by the admiration of nations. 

This first analysis would be more dangerous than useful if it were not 
filled out by another. Indeed, if we abide by these abstract notions, we will 
be inclined to dismiss glory as irrational^ to condemn the indefinite ac¬ 
cumulation of force as contradictory (the loss of allies more than offsetting, 
at a certain point, the increase of one’s own forces). From this angle, we 
would arrive at the allegedly unique objective of security. Let us abandon 
such abstract analyses and consider a political unit—that is, a human col¬ 
lectivity occupying a fragment of space. If we suppose that this collectivity 
is comparable to a person, with an intelligence and a will of its own, what 
goals is it liable to choose? 

A collectivity occupies a certain territory: it can logically consider the sur¬ 
face of the earth at its disposal as too small. In rivalry among peoples, the 
possession of space was the original stake. Secondly, sovereigns have often 
estimated their greatness according to the number of their subjects: what they 
desired, beyond their frontiers, was not territory, but men. Lastly, the armed 
prophet is sometimes less anxious to conquer than to convert: indifferent to 
the wealth of the earth and what it contains, he does not calculate the num¬ 
ber of his workers or soldiers; he seeks to spread the true faith, he wants the or¬ 
ganization corresponding to his interpretation of life and of history to en¬ 
compass gradually all of humanity. 

Here again, this ternary series seems to me complete. All the goals that 
states determine for themselves, in historical circumstances, necessarily refer 
to one of the three terms we have just listed: space, men and souls. Why 
should societies fight if not to extend the territory they cultivate and whose 
wealth they exploit, to conquer men who are alien today, slaves or fellow 

0Which does not exclude the fact that each also desired the objectives suggested hy 
the two other terms. 

Hilt would be wrong to do so; man does not live by bread alone. 



citizens tomorrow, or to insure the triumph of a certain idea, whether reli¬ 
gious or social, whose universal truth the collectivity proclaims simultaneously 
with its own mission? 

Concretely, these objectives are difficult to separate. Unless he exterminates 
or drives out the inhabitants, the conqueror takes possession of both space 
and the men who occupy it. Unless conversion takes place by the mere force 
of proselytism, the prophet does not disdain to govern men before administer¬ 
ing the salvation of souls. It remains no less true that in certain cases the 
three terms are distinct: the Crusaders first sought to liberate the Holy Land, 
not to convert the Moslems. The Israelis wanted to occupy the Palestinian 
space that had been the Kingdom of David, they were not interested in either 
conquering or converting the Moslems of Palestine. The sovereigns of mo¬ 
narchical Europe collected provinces—land and men—because the power and 
prestige of princes was measured by possessions. As for the conversion of the 
infidel, perhaps it has never been the exclusive goal of any state. Only un¬ 
armed prophets dream of pure conversion, but, as Machiavelli said, they per¬ 
ish. Though states are sometimes prophetic, they are always armed. Not that 
an idea is an instrument or a justification of the desire to conquer space or 
men. In the minds of religious or ideological leaders, the triumph of the faith, 
the spread of an idea, may be conceived, in all sincerity, as the true goal of 
action. It is in the eyes of the unbelievers that this goal seems a camouflage 
for imperialism: historians and theoreticians, also unbelievers, adhere all too 
easily to this cynical interpretation. 

What are the relations between the abstract series and the concrete series? 
It would be as arbitrary to subordinate the second to the first as to decree the 
opposite. The increase of space, the augmentation of material and human 
resources are, certainly, elements of security and power, sometimes even the 
objectives of glory. This does not mean that the conquest of a province can 
never be desired for itself. The French did not regard the return of Alsace- 
Lorraine to the mother country as a means to some ulterior goal, but as a good 
in itself, which required no other justification. Without Alsace-Lorraine, 
France was mutilated: with Strasbourg and Metz, she recovered her integrity. 
Down through the centuries, regions and cities and the men who populate 
them have assumed a historical significance, a symbolic value. The question 
is no longer whether the Moslems of Palestine or the Israelis could have 
found elsewhere a territory as fertile and resources that would have been 
equal or superior. It was here, around the Sea of Tiberias and on the plain 
of Jerusalem, it was here and in no other place on the planet that certain 
Jews (who no longer believed in God and in the “covenant”) wanted to cre¬ 
ate anew a collectivity that would proclaim itself the heir of a semi-legendary 

In our times, no guarantee of order and justice suffices to disarm national 
claims: active minorities leading various populations seek to belong to the 
political unit of their choice. The Cypriots wanted a fatherland, which 



could not be Great Britain or the British Empire: fair administration, auton¬ 
omy, a relatively high standard of living—nothing could compensate for the 
absence of a political community. Of the two aspirations, not to be uprooted 
and not to be deprived of a fatherland, it is the first that has ultimately 
yielded in Europe: transfers of populations have in a sense signified the 
primacy of the nation over the territory. 

In each series, abstract or concrete, the third term, glory or idea, stands 
apart. Not that these two terms correspond to each other: on the contrary, 
glory is an empty notion, and exists only in human consciousness, perhaps 
especially in the consciousness of the man who desires to possess it. The man 
“full of glory” is the man who is satisfied with the idea that he believes others 
have of him. Therefore it is precisely the “vainglorious” man who is a char¬ 
acter of ridicule. Even if he is not mistaken as to the sentiments he inspires, 
the man “full of glory” should be unaware of his fortune or indifferent to 
it in order to be entirely worthy of it. But thereby, the goal itself retreats pro¬ 
gressively as he approaches it. Never will the exploits performed satisfy the 
doubts of the man who aspires to glory. 

An idea—whether it is Christianity or communism, tire divinity of Christ 
or a certain organization of society—is, on the contrary, quite definite. Per¬ 
haps the inquisitors will never be sure of the sincerity of conversions. Perhaps 
the members of the Presidium will never eliminate the “capitalist” tendencies 
of the peasants, perhaps deviations will always appear, continually renewed 
upon the expulsion of the preceding deviationists. At least an idea has a 
specific content, whereas glory cannot be grasped since it is linked to the 
dialogue of men. 

Yet in essence this objective too is situated in infinity. Where truth is 
concerned, nothing is done so long as something remains to be done. The 
religions of salvation have a universal vocation, they are addressed to human¬ 
ity since they are addressed to each man. Once a prophet takes arms to prop¬ 
agate them, his enterprise will never know an end unless it covers the entire 
planet. Wars for glory and wars for an idea are human in a different way 
from wars for land and its riches. Crusaders are sublime and dangerous. The 
nobles who fight for prestige can never be through fighting. If the goal is to 
conquer in order to be recognized as a conqueror or to conquer in order to 
impose the truth, it suffices that the determination to win be the same on each 
side for the violence to proceed to extremes. The most humane wars in origin 
are also, frequently, the most inhumane, because they are the most pitiless. 

Hence we are tempted to constitute a third ternary series which, following 
the Platonic model, would be that of body, heart and mind. Whether it is a 
question of land or men, of security or force, the stake is ultimately material: 
the political units seek to enlarge their space or to accumulate resources in 
order to live free of danger or with the means to avert it. But neither se¬ 
curity nor force satisfies the aspirations of communities : each desires to prevail 
over the others, to be recognized as first among its rivals. Political units have 



theii amour-fro-pre, as people do; perhaps they are even more sensitive. Hence 
they sometimes prefer the intoxication of triumph to the advantages of a 
negotiated peace. Sometimes the desire for glory will be satisfied only by the 
diffusion of an idea, of which each community wants to be the unique in¬ 
carnation. The mind, finally, animates the dialectic of violence and drives it 
to extremes, once it links its destiny to that of a state, that is, of a human col¬ 
lectivity in arms. 

Of course, the demand for security and force also leads to extremes. In the 
last analysis, a political unit would feel entirely safe only if it had no further 
enemy, in other words, if it had been enlarged to the dimensions of a uni¬ 
versal state. But the desire for security and force does not transform itself 
into a demand for unlimited power, unless amour-fro'pre or faith arouses and 
finally overwhelms the calculations of interest. Anxious only to live in peace, 
neither Pyrrhus nor Napoleon nor Hitler would have consented to so many 
certain sacrifices in the hope of an uncertain gain. 

Conquerors have sometimes justified their undertakings in terms of the 
prosperity their people would enjoy after victory. Such Utopias served as an 
excuse, not an inspiration. These leaders desired power as an instrument of 
their glory, with a view to the triumph of an idea for its own sake, never in 
order that men might know “the good life.” 

2. Historical Objectives 

Like the theory of power, this theory of objectives has a suprahistorical 
value, while it also permits us to comprehend historical diversity. The objec¬ 
tives of states refer, in every century, to the terms of the two ternary series or 
even, if one prefers the simplified formula, to the three terms of the last ab¬ 
stract-concrete series. But many circumstances—of military or economic tech¬ 
nique, of institutional or ideological origin—intervene to limit and specify the 
objectives statesmen actually select. 

Let us start with the first term, the most constant stake of human conflicts: 
space. At the dawn of history as on the threshold of the Atomic Age, human 
groups dispute the territory on which some are established and which others 
desire. Collectivities distribute territory among their members and legalize in¬ 
dividual ownership. But the sovereignty of the collectivity itself over the 
whole of the territory is not thereby admitted by the other collectivities. Dur¬ 
ing the first millenniums of the historical phase, the tribes retreated before the 
invaders from the east, to become conquerors in their turn with regard to the 
populations settled farther west. The horsemen of the steppes established their 
dominion over the sedentary populations and created hierarchic societies, the 
warriors constituting a superior class superimposed upon the mass of laborers. 

In modem times the stmggle for land has lost its primeval simplicity and 
brutality, but is no less cruel when it breaks out. Israelis and Palestinian Mos¬ 
lems cannot form a single collectivity and cannot occupy the same territory: 
one or the other is doomed to suffer injustice. In North Africa the French 



conquest of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries signified partial expro¬ 
priations from the Berber or Arab populations, the French settlers receiving 
lands belonging to tribes, villages or families. Tunisian or Moroccan inde¬ 
pendence brought about a more or less rapid expropriation of French colons. 
The Algerian War, in a sense, had as its stake the land that both Moslems 
and French regarded as their own, and upon which they were temporarily 
obliged to coexist, both demanding sovereignty—the former under the banner 
of independence, the latter under that of integration. 

For the French who were established across the Mediterranean, Algeria 
was the land on which their fathers lived, and therefore, so to speak, the 
fatherland. But for France, what has been, what is the significance of Algeria? 
Why had Franck desired, since 1830, to extend her sovereignty over a ter¬ 
ritory which she had never occupied in the course of past centuries? It is 
difficult to answer, because the very statesmen or military leaders who de¬ 
termined and executed the conquest either did not know why they acted 
or else were divided as to their motives. 

Some emphasized the threat of the Barbary Coast pirates to navigation, 
and the security that possession of the Algerian coast would assure to Medi¬ 
terranean shipping. Let us say that they emphasized a military motive. Others 
favored the possibilities of colonization and hinted at a French Empire of a 
hundred million men on both shores of the Mediterranean. Let us say that 
they dreamed of an enlargement of French space and an increase of French 
popidatior^ During the last years Frenchmen cited the many economic ad¬ 
vantages of French sovereignty over Algeria, which constituted a reserve of 
manpower, a customer of and purveyor to the metropolitan economy, a source 
of raw materials and, particularly since 1956, of petroleum. Let us say that 
economic advantages are invoked here. In other words, this example permits 
us to discern the three typical arguments in favor of conquest: military or 
strategic importance, spatio-demographic advantage, spatio-economic profit. 

Each of these arguments is subject to the law of change. The military, 
demographic or economic value of a territory varies with the techniques of 
combat and production, with human relations and institutions. The same po¬ 
sitions are or are not strategically important, depending on the state of interna¬ 
tional relations (with the Russian army established two hundred kilometers 
from the Rhine, the old frontier between Germany and France is of no 
significance in military terms), and on armament (the Bosphorus and the 

0When we use such an expression we personify a political unity, we introduce no 
particular metaphysic: it is clear that men, in the name of France, have taken the 
decision. But the very object of this book implies that we consider states as endowed 
with intelligence and will. 

DD“May the day soon come when our fellow citizens, close-pressed in our African France, 
will overflow into Morocco and Tunisia, and finally establish that Mediterranean em¬ 
pire which will not only be a satisfaction for our pride, but which will certainly, in 
the future state of the world, be the last resource of our greatness.” This text occurs at 
the end of La France nouvelle, by Prevost-Pradol. 



Suez Canal have lost most of their value since they are too easily “closed” by 
atom bombs, too easily “crossed,” too, by air transport). With Algeria inde¬ 
pendent, the security of Mediterranean shipping will not be threatened by 
the Barbary pirates. 

The demographic argument is presented in two radically different forms. 
Space is still precious when it is empty or sparsely populated. We cannot 
overestimate the historical influence of the fact that after the sixteenth cen¬ 
tury Europeans had at their disposal the empty spaces of America. In the 
nineteenth century, when mortality was diminishing and the old birth rate 
was being lowered only slowly, millions of Englishmen, Germans and Scan¬ 
dinavians, then Italians and Slavs were able to cross the Atlantic and occupy 
the immensities of North America. Numbering sixty-five thousand at the 
period of the Treaty of Paris, there are now over five million French Ca¬ 
nadians, less than two centuries later. Even today, if the objective of states 
is that their populations should “increase and multiply,” the occupation of 
empty space is the ideal means (whence the—truly diabolical—temptation to 
empty space in order to reserve it for the victors: Elitler would not have 
resisted the temptation). 

On the other hand, the occupation of an already populated space raises 
problems that vary according to the centuries. Princes once tended to measure 
their greatness by the number of their provinces and their subjects. When the 
number of men increased, so did that of laborers and soldiers. In the centuries 
when underpopulation, a shortage of men, was feared, the extension of sover¬ 
eignty over inhabited lands passed for advantageous or beneficial. This 
traditional conception was called into question by the liberal economists, ac¬ 
cording to whom commerce could and should ignore frontiers. The assumption 
of sovereignty imposed administrative expenses upon the metropolitan coun¬ 
try without affording it any additional profit® 

The anti-colonial argument of the liberals, which had wide influence in 
England in the last century, but did not prevent the expansion of the 
British Empire, was opposed by the apparent soundness of traditional ideas 
and several phenomena originating in the industrial era. How could anyone 
doubt that conquest was profitable, a proof and symbol of greatness, when it 
was cheap in military terms and when the metropolitan country found in its 
empire both raw materials at low prices and protected markets? Imperialists 
and the Marxists were fundamentally in agreement as to the benefits of the 
colonies: higher rates of profit, guaranteed outlets for manufactured products, 
insured supply of raw materials. The only difference between the two lay in 
the judgment of value set upon the enterprise and the goal attributed to it. 
Marxists denounced an exploitation that was, in their eyes, the cause and goal 
of imperialism; the imperialists justified by its civilizing mission an enterprise 
whose advantages for the colonizing state they were not ashamed to proclaim. 

The liberal argument again found an audience after the Second World 

03 See below, Part II, Chap. IX. 

8 o 


War, following the convergence of political motives and economic motives. 
Either the colony did not include a European population, in which case the 
principle of equality of peoples established the right to independence. Or else 
the colony included a European population, in which case the principle of 
individual equality forbade treating the natives as inferiors, and led to the 
power of the greater number—that is, of the indigenous peoples—by means 
of universal suffrage. 

The imperial state discovered, at the same moment, that a “civilizing mis¬ 
sion” was expensive when taken seriously. Certain individuals, certain com¬ 
panies benefited from the colonial situation, but the balance-sheet for the 
collectivity ceased to be positive, insofar as the creation of an administrative 
and educational infrastructure and the improvement of the standard of living 
figured among the obligations of the metropolitan country. 

Between the advantage of possessing the territory and the cost of assuming 
responsibility for its population, the European states, Great Britain first of all, 
have chosen decolonization (or, more precisely, Great Britain has chosen, 
France has gradually been forced to choose). The transfer of sovereignty in¬ 
volved diplomatic and military risks: instead of commanding, the ex-imperial 
state was henceforth obliged to negotiate. The military forces of India were 
no longer at the service of British interests in the Middle East. But, on the 
military level too, the abandonment of sovereignty was less costly than a war 
against nationalism. France has been weakened more by the Indo-Chinese 
War than it would have been by an agreement with Ho Chi Minh, concluded 
in 1946. Great Britain would have been weakened more by resistance to 
Indian nationalism, even had such resistance been victorious over a genera¬ 
tion, than it has been by the transfer of sovereignty to the Congress Party 
and the Arab League. 

However summary, these analyses have permitted us to define two of the 
fundamental factors in the historical transformation of goals: the techniques 
of combat and -production change and, thereby, modify the strategic value 
of positions, at the same time that the economic value of various natural and 
human resources of the territory, in other words the modes of organization of 
collectivities, authorize or exclude, in every period, certain modes of domina¬ 
tion. Conquerors, down through the ages, have rarely acknowledged that 
victory imposed duties to a greater degree than it conferred rights. Superiority 
of arms was equivalent to the superiority of a civilization. The conquered 
were always wrong, and subjection seemed the legitimate sanction of defeat. 
The chapter in which Montesquieu deals with conquest already belongs to 
an age in which the judgment of arms no longer passed for the just verdict 
from the tribunal of history or Providence^ 

0“lt is a conqueror’s responsibility to repair a part of the harm he has done. I there¬ 
fore define the right of conquest thus: a necessary, legitimate but unhappy power, 
which leaves the conqueror under a heavy obligation of repairing the injuries done to 
humanity.” ( L’Esprit des lois, X, 4 .) 


8 l 

The doctrine of empires depends on concepts involving relations among 
governed and governing, and among various populations, even more than on 
concepts involving war and the privileges of force. When citizenship was 
limited to a small number within the city-state, when only nobles bore arms 
and owned laborers as property, no limit could rationally be set on the enter¬ 
prises of conquest: the number of subjects and slaves could increase without 
a proportionate increase in the number of citizens. The ruling people re¬ 
mained free to accord or refuse citizenship—the Roman Empire long tolerated 
a considerable number of populations subject to Rome, but not integrated 
within the Roman civilization. Similarly, the kings of France and Prussia 
were persuaded to increase their forces as their territories enlarged and the 
number of their subjects increased. It was assumed that the desire of men 
to obey one master rather than another did not count and, most of the time, 
did not exist. The religious conflicts that had drenched Europe in blood con¬ 
firmed the merits of the old political wisdom: it is best to keep men from 
meddling in their own business. In order to re-establish peace in Europe, it 
had been necessary to order each and every man to believe in the truths of 
the Church acknowledged by the prince. 

The case was altered after the French Revolution, when two new ideas 
gradually won men’s minds: the juridical equality of the members of the 
collectivity; the aspiration of the governed to belong to a community of their 
choice, a community of their own. 

The first idea, carried to its logical consequences, implied the elimination 
of the distinction between victors and vanquished within the collectivity, as 
of the distinction between orders, i.e., between nobles and commoners. “Thus 
a conqueror who reduces a conquered people to slaver}' ought always to re¬ 
serve to himself the means (for means there are without number) of restor¬ 
ing that people to their liberty.’01n the democratic age, we would say that 
imperial domination finds its outlet either in accession to independence on 
the part of the conquered populations, or in the integration of the colonies 
with the metropolitan country in a multinational (more or less federal or cen¬ 
tralized) complex. The choice itself between these two outcomes is deter¬ 
mined less by the desires of statesmen than by the nature of the metropolitan 
country. It is difficult for a strictly national state, like France, to become the 
nucleus of a multinational community. A state with universal pretensions, like 
the Soviet State, can attempt a policy of integration on a grand scale. 

The second idea, intimately related to the first, is that self-determination 
of the governed cannot be repressed, and should not be constrained by force. 
The national idea, it is true, oscillates between two formulas, that of na¬ 
tionality embedded within the historical, if not the biological, being of 
populations, and that of the voluntary decision whereby each man (or 
each group) must determine the political collectivity to which he (or it) will 

&hil, X, 3 . 



belong. According to the first formula, Alsace was more or less German in 
1871; according to the second, it was French. 

The national ideal is not entirely new, nor did the authentic citizens of the 
city-states or monarchies obey just any prince. However, even the nobles 
could pass from the service of one sovereign to that of another without 
creating the scandal of treason. The extension of citizenship to all members 
of the collectivity profoundly transformed the meaning of the national idea. 
If all the subjects became citizens, or if the citizens refused to obey just any 
master because they sought to participate in the state, political units could 
no longer take for their objective the conquest of just any territory or just any 
population. Moreover, the violation of this prohibition was generally “pun¬ 
ished” by the difficulty and the cost of governing recalcitrant populations. 

In other words, the concrete objectives that political units choose do not 
evolve with the techniques of combat and production alone, but also with 
historical ideas associated with the organization and government of the col¬ 
lectivities. In the long run a state does not apply two philosophies, one in¬ 
ternally, the other externally. It does not keep both citizens and subjects un¬ 
der its orders indefinitely. If it seeks to keep subjects externally, it will end 
by turning its own citizens into subjects. 

The concrete objectives of states, in a given period, are still not precisely 
defined by the state of techniques (of combat and of production) and his¬ 
torical ideas. We must also take into account what we shall call, with the 
theoreticians of international law, custom. The conduct of states with regard 
to each other, the procedures they consider legitimate, the cunning or the 
brutality from which they abstain, are not directly determined by the organi¬ 
zation of the army or of the economy. Strategic-diplomatic conduct is a matter 
of custom. Tradition bequeaths, from generation to generation, great or re¬ 
mote goals which statesmen sometimes refuse to forget, against all reason. In 
1917, when the government of the Third Republic, in a secret agreement 
with the Tsar’s government, upheld the Russian claims to the Dardanelles as 
compensation for Russian support of its own claims to the left bank of the 
Rhine, the custom of bargaining and traditional natural frontiers prevailed 
over the techniques and ideas of the period. Perhaps economic and ideological 
rationality prevail over the habits of the past and the passions of circum¬ 
stances, but they prevail only in the long run. 

3. Offensive and Defensive 

The two concepts of offensive and defensive , Clausewitz writes, are the 
two principal concepts of strategy. Are they, and in what sense, the key con¬ 
cepts of foreign policy, that is, of diplomatic-strategic conduct? 

When the negotiators, in the disarmament conferences, sought to distin¬ 
guish “offensive weapons” from “defensive weapons,” they were unable to 
surmount the ambiguities: an aggressor nation can utilize defensive weapons, 



as a state under attack can utilize offensive weapons—supposing that these 
notions, which have a meaning on the level of tactics or strategy, are valid 
when applied to weapons. 

What political meaning attaches to these notions, which originally concern 
the conduct of operations or engagements? On the highest level of abstraction 
I have distinguished offensive -power and defensive power —that is, the ca¬ 
pacity of a political unit to impose its will on others and the capacity of a unit 
not to let the will of others be imposed upon it. In the diplomatic realm, the 
defensive consists, for a state, in safeguarding its autonomy, maintaining its 
own manner of life, not accepting subordination of its internal laws or of its 
external action to the desires or decrees of others. The states called "small 
powers” generally have—can only have—defensive ambitions. They seek to 
survive as such, as seats of free decisions. On the other hand, the nations 
called “great powers” desire to possess the capacity that we have called offen¬ 
sive—in other words, the capacity to act on other political units, to convince 
or constrain them. The great powers must take the initiative, make alliances, 
stand at the head of coalitions. A state of the first rank which makes use only 
of its “defensive power” adopts an attitude of “isolationism,” it foregoes 
participating in competition, it refuses to enter the system, it desires to be 
left in peace. Isolationism—that of Japan in the eighteenth century or that of 
the United States after the First World War—is not always praiseworthy in 
itself. That of Japan had no serious consequences for other states, but that of 
the United States distorted the calculations of force. Twice Germany ignored 
the potential of the remote state which professed to abstain from world poli¬ 

On a lower level, an offensive is sometimes confused with a demand, a 
defensive with conservation. In a given circumstance, the satisfied states— 
generally those that dictated the terms of peace at the end of the last war- 
desire the maintenance of the status quo, while the unsatisfied states desire 
its modification. In the West, Germany after 1871 was a conservative state, 
France a revisionist state, the stake being Alsace-Lorraine. After 1918 France 
was totally conservative, while Germany pressed its demands on all diplomatic 
fronts and on all frontiers. 

The opposition between revision and conservation does not necessarily de¬ 
termine the distribution of roles and responsibilities at the moment when 
hostilities break out. In other words, it is conceivable that the conservative 
state will take the initiative in resorting to arms. For example, seeing that 
the unsatisfied states are accumulating forces, it foresees the aggression that 
it fears or judges inevitable. Montesquieu actually attributes some legitimacy 
to these preventive aggressions or conservative offensives. ‘With states, the 
right of natural defense sometimes involves the necessity of attacking; as, for 
instance, when one nation sees that a continuance of peace will enable an¬ 
other to destroy it, and that to attack that nation is the only way to prevent its 

8 4 


own destruction.® Israel’s operation in the Sinai, in November 1956, might 
have been justified as "preventive aggression.” 

The impact of two coalitions brings into conflict, on one side or the other, 
conservative states and revisionist states: in 1914 Germany, conservative re¬ 
garding the territorial status in the west, took the initiative of war against 
revisionist France, but within the framework of a generalized war. Lastly, a 
state or a camp, without formulating precise demands, may have the sense of 
some permanent injustice: in proportion to its force, it does not possess its 
fair share of the wealth. It believes itself capable of conquering, and of hold¬ 
ing a great position upon victory. Before 19x4 Italy and France made more 
specific, more assertive demands than Germany. Perhaps Germany was less 
opposed to a test by arms than these two states, which were both more de¬ 
manding and less powerful. 

Thus the opposition of the revisionist state and the conservative state is 
often deceptive. The propensity to take the initiative in hostilities also de¬ 
pends first on the relation of forces, then on the chance of success which 
each state or each side sees for itself. Conservatism is rarely complete, satis¬ 
faction rarely total. If the occasion warranted, the "satisfied” state would 
modify to its advantage the frontiers of enemy or allied territories. It is not 
always the defeated of the last war who start the next. 

Similarly, by another paradox, the unsatisfied and aggressive state may de¬ 
liberately create the appearance of peaceful intentions. In July 1914 the slo¬ 
gan “localization of the conflict” was bandied by Vienna at the very moment 
the Austrian cannon were shelling Belgrade. Not that the state drawing the 
sword is necessarily acting in bad faith when it proclaims its desire to limit 
the theater^of hostilities or the number of belligerents. If it desires not gener¬ 
alized war but political success, it has achieved its goals once other states in 
the system refrain from entering the conflict. In 1914 Russia could not stop 
the Austrian action against Serbia without creating at least the probability of 
a generalized war. Before 1939 the conservative coalition could not stop the 
unsatisfied Third Reich except by the threat of a generalized war. After the 
reoccupation of the left bank of the Rhine, France had lost the opportunity 
(which it owed to the Versailles Treaty) of a limited and effective counter¬ 

The objectives sought and the role at the origin of the hostilities do not 
suffice to determine the character of foreign policy. The final judgment also 
depends on the consequences that the victory of a state or a side would pro¬ 
duce. Did Athens start the Peloponnesian War, and did the Athenians con¬ 
sciously desire hegemony over the Greek city-states? Was the Germany of 
Wilhelm II responsible (and to what degree) for the explosion of 1914? 
Whatever the answer given to these questions, it is certain that had Sparta 



been defeated, Athens would have dominated the whole of the Greek world; 
had the Western Allies lost, Germany would have possessed, on the Conti¬ 
nent, a superiority of forces that would have signified, for the other European 
nations, the equivalent of a loss of autonomy. Now, since history offers few 
examples of hegemonic states which do not abuse their force, the state to 
which victor)? would give hegemony is regarded as aggressive, whatever the 
intentions of those governing it. 

Still more offensive appears the foreign policy of a state that tends to 
overthrow not only the relation of forces but the internal status of states. 
Revolutionary France was not necessarily aggressive on the diplomatic level, 
she did not have to take the initiative of war; however, she had no choice 
but to attack kings and princes at the point where they were most vulnerable, 
on the principle of legitimacy itself. A great deal has been written about the 
diplomacy of the Republic, and historians have frequently asked how far 
it prolonged monarchical diplomacy by continuing its objectives, if not its 
methods. Yet insufficient attention has been paid to one piece of evidence 
which escaped no contemporary: it was not within the power of men to 
decide whether the diplomacy of the Republic was or was not in conformity 
with custom. It was in essence revolutionary, insofar as French ideas spread 
across Europe and toppled thrones. A state’s policy is revolutionary if its 
victory would involve the collapse of traditional states, the ruin of the old 
principle of legitimacy. 

None of these antitheses—conservative-revisionist, attacked-aggressor, tra¬ 
ditional-revolutionary—is expressed on the level of strategy by the opposition 
between defensive and offensive. Even when the state is aggressive or revo¬ 
lutionary, the military leader can order his generals to remain on the defen¬ 
sive, temporarily if forces are not mobilized, permanently if he pins his hopes 
on the enormous extent of his territory or the patience of his population. 
Initiating hostilities does not imply the choice of a given strategy. Ger¬ 
many, even if she had been the victim of an aggression in 1914, would have 
had to apply the Schlieffen Plan—to attack France during the first phase of 
the conflict in order to put her hors de combat before turning against Rus¬ 
sia. France, who regarded herself as attacked, launched her troops into 
Alsace. Strategy, whether offensive or defensive, on the whole or on a given 
front, is not determined by state policy alone—the initiatives it has taken 
and the objectives it seeks—it is also a function of the relation of forces, 
the order of hostilities and the judgments of the military leaders as to the 
respective merits of the two ways of “using engagements in the service of 
the war.” 

We find here the formulas complementary to those we analyzed in the 
first chapter. On the lowest tactical level the action of the soldier, the 
company, the battalion, the regiment obeys strictly military considerations. 
The day a battle is fought, the leader seeks to win it, although he takes 
greater or less risks, aims at a more or less complete success, depending on 



the total circumstances and the goals of each side. On the other hand, the 
establishment of the plan of war depends, in theory and in practice, on 
both the state’s policy and the relation of forces or the geography of the 
conflict. But if the military leader must always take political considerations 
into account, there is no correspondence between the various meanings of 
the diplomatic offensive and defensive, as we have just distinguished them, 
and the two modes of strategy distinguished by Clausewitz. 

In the Far East, Japan from 1931 or 1937 clearly pursued an aggressive 
and revolutionary policy. She had constituted the Empire of Manchukuo 
out of Manchuria, which she had cut off from China; she attempted, and 
made no mystery about it, to create a “new order,” which would embrace 
Asia from Mukden to Djakarta. It was Japan that took the initiative in 
hostilities against China in X937, against the United States, Great Britain 
and the Dutch possessions in I94X. Yet the strategy adopted was offensive- 
defensive: during the first phase, taking advantage of a local and temporary 
superiority, Japanese admirals and generals counted on winning brilliant 
successes and securing territorial stakes; during the second phase, they ex¬ 
pected to remain on the defensive and wear down the United States’ will 
to win. This combination of a policy of conquests and an offensive-defensive 
strategy leading to a negotiated peace had, from the first, little chance of 
success. A state rarely achieves such grandiose designs if it has not achieved 
a total victory, in military terms. But it remains true that a revisionist, con¬ 
quering, revolutionary state may adopt a defensive strategy, relying on at¬ 
trition, both physical and moral, of its adversaries, without seeking to defeat 
or disarm them. 

On the other hand, a state without ambitions of conquest, without re¬ 
sponsibility in the initiation of hostilities, occasionally aims at a victor}? of 
annihilation, and prefers, to indirect methods and oblique operations, a 
brutal onslaught against the enemy’s strength. Must we say that the military 
leader who seeks absolute victory, while he plans limited objectives, acts in 
an irrational manner? Such a conclusion would be false. It all depends on 
whether the enemy is prepared to yield before exhausting its means of 
resistance: Hitler would have continued to the very end of the struggle, 
even without hope. An absolute victory in military terms, even if it is not 
indispensable for certain political achievements, adds to the prestige of 
anus and thereby constitutes a contribution to the victor’s diplomacy. Lastly, 
after the initiation of hostilities, it is natural that the military leaders should 
try to win an absolute victory, whatever the advantage their nation’s foreign 
policy intends to derive from it. 

The choice of an offensive or defensive strategy, the desire for a total or 
limited victory, the preference for direct assault or for indirect advance— 
none of these decisions is separated from, but none is entirely determined 
by, policy. One can win an absolute victory by wearing the enemy down, 
one can annihilate the enemy forces in order to dictate the terms of a mod- 


8 ? 

erate peace, one can count on the enemy’s lassitude to retain one’s conquests 
—which does not alter the fact that, in general, the aggressive state takes 
the offensive, that the revolutionary state adopts a strategy of annihilation 
and seeks an absolute victory. The complexity of relations among sovereign 
states, the many interpretations of offensive or defensive policy, and the 
combination of the strategic and diplomatic meanings of these terms, had 
persuaded seventeenth- and eighteenth-century authors not to introduce a 
juridical discrimination between aggressor and victim and to accord all 
belligerents the advantage of legality. Conceptual analysis shows at least the 
reasons for this discretion. 

The War of 1914 breaks out. The murder at Sarajevo was the occasion: 
to what degree was it the cause? Did the historical circumstances, the rivalry 
of states, the race for arms make the explosion inevitable sooner or later? If 
the event—assassination, ultimatum—had been merely the occasion, with what 
right do we attribute to a state and certain men a responsibility that devolves 
upon the total circumstances? 

Apparent cause and underlying causes do not necessarily agree. Many 
authors have asserted that the commercial rivalry between Great Britain and 
Germany, of which there was no question in July 1914, was a more active 
cause of the war than the violation of Belgian neutrality. Should we say 
that this violation was the pretext invoked by the English statesmen or the 
motive of their decision? 

It is not enough to have distinguished occasion and cause, pretext and 
motive, to weigh merits against faults. Once arms speak, the outcome is 
more important than the origin. What objectives do the belligerents seek? 
What are the probable results of the victory of one side or the other? In 
short, what are the stakes of the war?—stake being defined as the divergence 
between the two worlds, the one that Athens would control or the one Sparta 
would control, the one the Second or Third Reich would govern, and the 
one the Russians, the English and the Americans would govern. In this 
sense the stake is never entirely determined in advance, although what is “at 
stake” is more or less vaguely perceived by the actors. 

The stake itself is not the last word in the analysis. Perhaps peoples do 
not fight for the motives attributed to them. Perhaps the true causes are 
buried in the collective unconscious. Perhaps aggressiveness is a function 
of the number of men or of the number of young men. Perhaps sovereign 
states are condemned to fight each other because they fear each other. 

The doctrinaires of European public law who receive the approbation of 
Karl Schmitt^ recommended to the prince moderation and peace, but being 
aware of the uncertainty of human judgments and the ambiguity of political 
actions, they urged princes not to confuse law and morality. The aggressor, 

ElilDer Nomos der Erde im Vdlkerrecht des Jus Europaeum, Cologne, 1950. 



supposing he is known without the shadow of a doubt, would be morally 
culpable: he would nonetheless remain a legal enemy and not a common- 
law criminal. 

4. The Indeterminacy of Diplomatic-Strategic Behavior 

Human behavior can always be translated in terms of means and ends, 
provided that the action is not a simple reflex and that the actor is not 
insane. What I have said, what I have done cannot fail to have—in my 
eyes, if not in other people’s—certain consequences: nothing keeps us from 
considering after the fact the consequences as the ends and the steps that 
have preceded them as the means. The means-ends schema, zweckrational 
according to Max Weber’s concept, is nonetheless not the necessary ex¬ 
pression of the psychical mechanism or even of the logic of action. If we 
have referred to means and ends in the course of the two preceding chap¬ 
ters, it is merely to specify the nature of diplomatic-strategic behavior and, 
thereby, the character and limitations of the theory of international rela¬ 

We started with the opposition between economic behavior and diplo¬ 
matic-strategic behavior; the former has a relatively determined objective 
(although it assumes, depending on circumstances and persons, a different 
content), that is, the maximization of a quantity which, on the highest 
level of abstraction, would be called value or utility; the latter has no other 
initial characteristic than that of occurring in the shadow of war and, con¬ 
sequently, of being thereby obliged to take the relation of forces into ac¬ 
count. The plurality of means and ends, which we have analyzed in the 
course of the preceding chapters, permits us to grasp more clearly the op¬ 
position of these two kinds of behavior. 

The theoretician of economics is careful not to claim that he imposes or 
even that he knows from the outside the goals that individuals seek to 
achieve. He attributes to individuals a scale of preferences or transitive 
choices: if a person prefers A to B and B to C, he will not prefer C to A. It is 
by their choice that economic subjects manifest preferences, whose equal ra¬ 
tionality (or irrationality) the economist admits by hypothesis. The man 
who prefers leisure to increased revenue is not more rational than the mil¬ 
lionaire who ruins his health to accumulate profits. Theory overcomes the 
chaos of individual choices by means of money, a measurement of values and 
a universal means of acquiring goods. The maximization of monetary rev¬ 
enues is regarded as a rational goal since the individual is free to make 
what use he will of the quantity of money acquired. Money is only a means 
of buying merchandise, the choice of this merchandise depends on each 
man: the theoretician, without violating the intimacy of a conscience, while 
respecting the diversity of tastes, reconstructs the economic system step by 
step, limiting himself to positing that the subject, in order to maximize bis 
satisfactions, seeks to maximize the monetary means of realizing them. When 



the behavior of an individual is in question, the economist has no other 
definition of interest than the scale of preferences, variable from individual 
to individual, or the maximization of the utility measured by monetary 

In shifting from individual interest to collective interest, economists have 
encountered many difficulties, which have often been discussed. To keep 
to the major one, any determination of collective interest, if we continue to 
refer to individual preferences, requires a comparison between the satisfac¬ 
tions of some and the dissatisfactions of others. It is tempting to assume 
that the poor man whose income increases somewhat derives a satisfaction 
therefrom which is greater than the dissatisfaction of the rich man whose 
income somewhat decreases. By such reasoning we justify the transfer of 
revenues from the richer to the poorer classes, and the tendency to reduce 
the inequality of income. I myself share this way of thinking and the moral 
ideas that inspire it, hut such reasoning is not rational, in the sense of the 
evident or the demonstrated, as certain mathematical propositions or even 
propositions relative to the Walrasian schema of equilibrium are rational. The 
comparison of one individual’s satisfactions or dissatisfactions with an¬ 
other’s has no psychological meaning, in that it introduces a mode of con¬ 
sideration radically alien to that which is expressed in the theory of in¬ 
dividual economic behavior. Pareto, to my way of thinking, was not wrong 
in considering that only the point of the maximum of interest for a col¬ 
lectivity is the object of a rational determination. As long as it is possible to 
increase the satisfactions of some without diminishing those of others, it is 
legitimate to disregard the conflicts between individuals and groups. No 
one is harmed and some receive benefit. With the condition that he ignores 
the dissatisfaction occasioned to some by the spectacle of the fortune of 
others, and that he neglects the consequences of the redistribution of in¬ 
come, the statesman can claim kinship with science so long as he strives 
to attain the maximum of interest for the collectivity. 

Pareto himself did not consider that this maximum of interest for the col¬ 
lectivity was, thereby, the maximum of interest of the collectivity. Consid¬ 
ered as a unit, the collectivity does not necessarily intend to insure the 
greatest possible number of its members the greatest possible number of 
satisfactions. It may have power, prestige or glory as its objective. The sum 
of individual satisfactions is not equivalent to the advantage of the political 
unit as such. Yet diplomatic-strategic behavior, by definition, acts as a func¬ 
tion of the interest of the collectivity, to use Pareto’s language, or again as 
a function of the “national interest,” to use the language of the theo¬ 
reticians of international relations. Is this interest, in abstract terms, sus¬ 
ceptible of a rational definition which could serve as a criterion or an ideal 
for a statesman? The three preceding chapters, it seems to me, dictate a 
negative answer to this question. 

To give a “rationalizing interpretation” of diplomatic-strategic behavior, 

9 ° 


and to elaborate a general theory of international relations comparable to 
economic theory, many authors have made the concept of power or Macht 
a fundamental one, equivalent to the concept of value (or utility). But, as 
a matter of fact, this concept cannot fulfill this function. 

Let us suppose that we understand by power the potential of resources: 
the latter could not in any way be considered as a rationally imposed ob¬ 
jective. Or else we are concerned with resources that can be mobilized for 
external rivalry: in this case, to take the maximization of potential as the 
one supreme goal would be equivalent to granting absolute primacy to force 
or collective power. But a collectivity that extends its territory, increases its 
population, becomes different: it declines or it flourishes. The classical 
philosophers have always believed that there was an optimum dimension for 
political units. With what right would the theoretician of foreign policy 
justify those obsessed by power, or incriminate those whose supreme goal 
was the coherence or efficacy of the state? 

Suppose we meant by power not the potential of resources but force, 
that is, the resources actually mobilized with a view to the conduct of 
foreign policy? With what right would the maximizing of the degree of 
mobilization be an obvious or rational objective? In every period, in response 
to external danger and popular sentiment, the chief of state tries to deter¬ 
mine the appropriate degree of mobilization. Here, too, there is no reason 
for subordinating everything to the exigencies of diplomatic-strategic mo¬ 

Might we, finally, define power as the capacity to impose one’s will on 
others? In that case, power is not a final goal, either for the individual or 
for collectivities. Policy is always ambitious, it aspires to power because 
political action involves, in essence, a relationship among human beings, 
an element of power. Yet grand policy wants such power not for itself, 
but to carry out a mission. Similarly, a collectivity does not desire power 
for itself, but in order to achieve some other goal—peace, glory—so as to 
influence the future of humanity, through the pride of propagating an idea. 

In other words, for a collectivity to maximize resources or force is to 
maximize its means of acting on others. One cannot suppose, even in a 
simplifying hypothesis, that a collectivity has no other objective than to 
possess the maximum means of acting on others. To maximize effective 
power is to maximize a reality difficult to grasp (the collectivity that most 
influences others is not always the one that most consciously attempts to 
impose itself upon them); it is also to distort the intrinsic meaning of 
diplomatic-strategic action. Effective power may well constitute the ambition 
of certain men or of certain peoples: it is not in itself a rational objective. 

We may disregard the objection that economic subjects do not seek to 
maximize utility any more than “diplomatic subjects” seek to maximize power. 
There is a radical disparity between the two cases. Of course, homo 
economicus exists only in our rationalizing reconstruction, but the relation 


9 1 

between homo economicus and tbe concrete economic subject differs fun¬ 
damentally from the relation between the ideal-type diplomat (defined by 
the search for the maximization of resources, of force or of power), and the 
historical diplomat. The two “economic men”—one of theory and the other 
of practice—resemble each other as a retouched photograph resembles a 
snapshot. The theoretical economicus is more true to himself than the prac¬ 
tical one; he has perfect information and makes no errors in calculation. But 
if either seeks the maximization of the same quantity (monetary income, 
production, long- or short-term profit), the former’s perfect calculations help 
us to understand, and sometimes to correct, the latter’s imperfect calcula¬ 
tions. The diplomaticus of theory, who would have as his goal the maximi¬ 
zation of resources, of actual forces, or of power, would not be an idealized 
portrait of the diplomats of all ages, he would be the caricatured simplifica¬ 
tion of certain diplomatic personages at certain periods. 

The calculation of forces, which the ideal diplomat cannot avoid, is 
neither the first nor the last word of diplomatic-strategic behavior. Sympa¬ 
thies and hostilities at a given moment do not all result from the relation of 
forces: the diplomat attempts to maintain an equilibrium, but certain sympa¬ 
thies or hostilities are given as irreducible. He does not first of all seek the 
maximization of his resources, he desires such and such a province, such and 
such a strategic position, such and such a symbolic city. The eventual sub¬ 
ordination of the abstract objective of force to the concrete and immediate 
objective is contrary neither to the logic of human action nor to the logic 
of rivalry among states. To drive the infidels out of the Holy Land, for a 
man who believes in Christ and the Passion, is an enterprise reasonable in 
a different way than the pursuit of force for its own sake. Even the desire 
for revenge is not more irrational than the will to power. Political units are 
in competition: the satisfactions of amour-propre, victory or prestige, are no 
less real than the so-called material satisfactions, such as the gain of a 
province or a population. 

Not only are the historical objectives of political units not deducible from 
the relation of forces, but the ultimate objectives of such units are legiti¬ 
mately equivocal. Security, power, glory, idea are essentially heterogeneous 
objectives which can be reduced to a single term only by distorting the 
human meaning of diplomatic-strategic action. If the rivalry of states is 
comparable to a game, what is "at stake” cannot be designated by a single 
concept, valid for all civilizations at all periods. Diplomacy is a game in 
which the players sometimes risk losing their lives, sometimes prefer victory 
itself to the advantages that would result from it. Quantitative expression 
of the stakes is thereby impossible: not only do we not know in advance 
what the stake is (what the victor would do) but, for the warrior, victory 
suffices in itself. 

The plurality of concrete objectives and of ultimate objectives forbids a 
rational definition of “national interest,” even if the latter did not involve, in 

92 - 


itself, the ambiguity that attaches to collective interest in economic science. 
Collectivities are composed of individuals and groups, each of which seeks 
its own objectives, seeks to maximize its resources, its share of the national 
income or its position within the social hierarchy. The interests of these 
individuals or of these groups, as they express themselves in actual behavior, 
are not spontaneously in accord with each other, and added together they do 
not constitute a general interest. Even on the economic level, the general 
interest is not deduced from private or collective interests by some mysterious 
calculation of average or compensation. Rate of growth, distribution of re¬ 
sources between consumption and investment, proportion allotted to welfare 
and proportion devoted to external action are determined by decisions that 
wisdom may inspire but that science cannot determine.El 

A fortiori, the national interest is not reducible to private interests or 
private-collective interests. In a limited sense this concept is useful, it 
rouses the citizens to an awareness of the political unit of which they are 
temporary members, which has preceded them and will survive them. It 
reminds present-day leaders that security and greatness of the state must be 
the objectives of “diplomatic man,” whatever their ideology. 

It does not follow from this that national interest might, can or should be 
defined apart from the internal regime, the aspirations characteristic of the 
different classes, the political ideal of the state: the collectivity does not 
always change objectives when it changes its constitution, historical idea or 
ruling elite. But how can the political units maintain, through revolu¬ 
tions, the same ambitions and the same methods? 

Of course, formally, the conduct of all diplomats offers similarities. Any 
statesman seeks to recruit allies or to reduce the number of his enemies. 
Revolutionists spontaneously resume, after a few years, the projects of the 
regime they have overthrown. Such incontestable continuity results from the 
national tradition, imposed by the imperatives of the calculation of forces. 
It remains to be shown that statesmen, inspired by various philosophers, 
act the same way in the same circumstances, and that different parties, to be 
rational as diplomatic men, must calculate the national interest in the same 
manner. Now, such a demonstration seems inconceivable to me, and the 
hypothesis itself absurd El 

How could democrats, fascists and Communists between the two wars 
have sought the same objectives? Any elite in power hopes for the reinforce¬ 
ment both of its regime and of the state for which it is responsible. But as 
Hitler’s victory would involve the spread of totalitarian regimes, the demo¬ 
crats in any other European country could only have favored the Third 
Reich by sacrificing themselves on the pretext that their fatherland would 

EUThe only science that might eventually substitute foi wisdom would be that which 
has been developed in the theory of games; it would formulate the rules according to 
which a general will is revealed in the contradictions among individual wills. 

EUSee below, Chap. X. 



be stronger in a National Socialist Europe. Can we characterize the decision 
of statesmen who accept their own death in the hope that their nation will 
be stronger under other masters as incontestably rational? Does logic demand 
setting the strength of the state above the freedom of its citizens? 

Should a German of good family have desired the triumph of Hitler’s 
Germany, which in his eyes betrayed the true Germany? When each state 
or each camp embodies an idea, the individual risks being torn between 
his allegiance to a community and his commitment to his ideal. Whether he 
chooses the physical fatherland or the spiritual fatherland, he cannot be 
approved or condemned by the logic of politics alone. The national interest 
of political unity as such seems concretely determined only in circum¬ 
stances where rivalry is reduced to a pure competition whose stake is limited 
and in which none of the combatants risks his existence or his soul. 

If diplomatic behavior is never determined by the relation of forces alone, 
if power does not serve the same function in diplomacy as utility in econ¬ 
omy, then we may legitimately conclude that there is no general theory of 
international relations comparable to the general theory of economy. The 
theory we are sketching here tends to analyze the meaning of diplomatic 
behavior, to trace its fundamental notions, to specify the variables that must 
be reviewed in order to understand any one constellation. But it does not 
suggest an “eternal diplomacy,” it does not claim to be the reconstruction of 
a closed system. 

We have given this first part of our work the title “Concepts and Sys¬ 
tems.” The elaboration of concepts relative to the behavior of units taken 
individually leads us to the description of typical situations. 

chapter IV 

On International Systems 

I call an international system the ensemble constituted by political units 
that maintain regular relations with each other and that are all capable of 
being implicated in a generalized war. Units taken into account, in their 
calculation of forces, by those governing the principal states, are full-fledged 
members of an international system. 

I have hesitated to use this term system to designate an ensemble whose 
cohesion is one of competition, which is organized by virtue of a conflict, 
and which exits most powerfully on the day when it is lacerated by re¬ 
course to arms. A political system is defined by an organization, by the 
reciprocal relations of the parties, by the cooperation of elements, by the 
rules of government. To what degree do we find the equivalent in the case 
of an international system? 

The following pages will attempt to offer answers to these questions. Let 
us say, for now, that the term system seems useful as it is employed in the 
expression party system. In this case, too, the term designates the ensemble 
constituted by the collective actors in competition. Party competition, it is 
true, is subject to the rules of a constitution, for which international law 
does not offer an exact equivalent. But the number, respective size, and 
means of action of political parties are not provided for by the legal texts: 
parties are opposing units par excellence. The difference from international 
actors remains essential as long as parties regard the vote, and states regard 
bombs or missiles, as the ultima ratio. When parties no longer disdain ma¬ 
chine guns, or if states should some day be assimilated into a universal 
empire, the national and international actors tend, or would tend to become, 
identified with each other. 

An international system, like a party system, involves only a small number 
of actors. When the number of actors increases (there are more than a hun¬ 
dred states in the United Nations), that of the chief actors does not increase 
proportionally, and sometimes does not increase at all. We note two super- 



powers in the world system of 1950, at most five or six great powers, actual 
or potential. Therefore, the principal actors never have the sense of being 
subject to the system in the manner in which an average-size firm is subject 
to the laws of the market. The structure of international systems is always 
oligopolistic. In each period the principal actors have determined the system 
more than they have been determined by it. A change of regime within one 
of the chief powers suffices to change the style and sometimes the course 
of international relations. 

1. Configuration of the Relation of Forces 

The first characteristic of an international system is the con figuration of 
the relation of forces , a notion that itself involves several aspects: what are 
the limits of the system? what is the distribution of forces among the various 
actors? how are the actors situated on the map? 

Before the present period—more precisely before 1945—no international 
system included the entire planet. Scarcely more than a century ago, the 
ambassador of Her Britannic Majesty had difficulty obtaining an audience 
from the Emperor of China, refused to submit to rites he regarded as hu¬ 
miliating (genuflection), and, to offers of commercial relationships, received 
this scornful response: What could his remote little country produce which 
the Middle Empire was not capable of producing as well or better? At the 
time, there were two reasons that combined to exclude China from the 
European system: physical distance prohibited China from taking military 
action in Europe, while limiting European military capacity in the Far 
East; moral distance between the cultures made dialogue difficult, re¬ 
ciprocal comprehension impossible. 

Which of these two criteria, politico-military participation or communica¬ 
tion, is the more important in defining membership in a system? The first, 
it seems to me. Only the actors performing in the plays belong to a troupe. 
Performance, for the international troupe, is generalized war, potential or 
real: it matters little whether one of the actors speaks a somewhat different 
language. Certainly during the historical periods when a system has ex¬ 
isted, in other words, when relations have not been merely occasional and 
anarchic, the actors belong for the most part to the same zone of culture, 
worship the same gods, respect the same prohibitions. The Greek city-states, 
like the European nations, were aware of both their fundamental kinship 
and the permanence of their rivalry. But the Persian Empire, which the 
Greeks considered as alien—barbarian—and the Turkish Empire, whose 
Islamic faith the Christian sovereigns could not ignore, were involved in 
the conflicts and the calculations of the Greek city-states or the European 
monarchies. They were an element in the relation of forces, although they 
were not an integral part of the transnational cultural ensemble. 

Uncertainty of limits does not involve merely the duality of the diplomatic 



or military participation and of the community of culture. It also involves the 
enlargement, sometimes rapid and unforeseeable, of the diplomatic field, as a 
function of technology and of political events. By subjecting the Greek city- 
states to their law, the Macedonian kings created a political unit whose re¬ 
sources made distant undertakings possible. The international system was 
extended as the units themselves enlarged, and thereby became capable of 
including, in thought and in action, a larger historical space. 

Before 1914 the European states neglected the eventuality of United States 
intervention. The United States was not, apparently, a military power, and 
did not play a part on the European stage. It is not without interest to reflect 
on this error, which falsified calculations. 

Economically, the United States had been, for centuries, inseparable from 
Europe. European history would have been quite different if, in the nine¬ 
teenth century, the Old World’s surplus population had not found rich and 
empty lands to cultivate across the Atlantic. Great Britain, because of her 
mastery of the seas, had possessed, during the great wars of the Revolution 
and the Empire, at least a share of the resources of the other continents. The 
European conquests since the sixteenth century should have shown that 
henceforth distance was no longer an insurmountable obstacle to military 
action. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, progress in means of 
transportation seemed limited to maritime services. Great Britain had estab¬ 
lished herself in India, but it took Napoleon almost as long as Caesar to go 
from Rome to Paris. In the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the 
twentieth, on the other hand, the means of land transportation developed to a 
remarkable degree, due to the railroad, and then to the internal-combustion 
engine. Such progress made ignorance of the elementary rule of reciprocity 
still more unjustifiable: if European military forces could be present in India 
or in Mexico, why should American military force not be present in the Old 

This unawareness of the possible return to Europe, in uniform, of the 
European emigrants settled across the Atlantic seems to me to have had many 
causes. The Spaniards had required few expeditionary forces to conquer Cen¬ 
tral and South America. The Europeans, at the very period when they ruled 
the world, reserved for the struggles that retrospectively seem to us quite 
fratricidal, the majority of their resources. It was difficult for them to imagine 
transporting mass armies across the Atlantic. Experts tended to overestimate 
the importance of the officers’ corps and still more of the aristocratic class 
from which this corps was, or was supposed to be, recruited. The stereo¬ 
typed image, “a commercial state or a military state,” prevented a recognition 
of the new fact of the approximate proportionality between industrial po¬ 
tential and military potential. Further, why should the II nited States, hostile 
to “entanglement” from the beginning of its existence, eager to keep out of 
European conflicts, participate in a war whose origin was obscure and whose 



stalce was ambiguous? This latter reasoning was not radically false, but it did 
not take into account the possibility that the first battles would not decide the 
results and that the hostilities would extend over several years. In other 
words, statesmen and generals were wrong to overlook the fact that materially 
the United States could send a great army to Europe. Failing to anticipate the 
war’s amplification due to the draft, to industry, and to the approximate 
equality of forces, they were surprised when the conflict’s dynamism involved 
the United States in battle and extended the European diplomatic field to 

This field, whose limits are traced by the techniques of transportation and 
combat at the same time as by relations among states, is divided into political 
units and groupings of units (temporary alliances or permanent coalitions). 
The geography of the diplomatic field is not modified, or is modified only 
slowly. On the other hand, the strength of each unit and the groupings are 
modified, sometimes rapidly. Therefore the so-called constants imposed by 
geography are often deceptive. It is not geography, but the projection on a 
map of a certain relation of forces which suggests the idea of friendship or 
hostility, original or permanent. Once this relation of forces changes, another 
policy becomes reasonable. Early in this century, French textbooks of diplo¬ 
matic history extolled the wisdom of an alliance with a state on the other 
side of the potential enemy, a tradition that seemed dictated by geography 
and was actually suggested by a configuration of the relation of forces. A 
European state would have to be stronger than France to justify this kind of 
alliance, which aimed at re-establishing equilibrium and creating a threat of 
war on two fronts. Such an alliance with Poland or the Soviet Union against 
the Bonn Republic, or tomorrow against a unified Germany (extended to 
the Oder-Neisse Line), would be senseless. Even a reunified Germany would 
be weaker than Western Europe (France supported by the Anglo-American 
nations), or the Soviet bloc. Why should France attempt to weaken further, 
by surrounding it, a neighbor not to be feared? 

Of course, the geographical distribution of alliances exerts an influence on 
the course of diplomacy. According to the space they occupy, the political 
units have different resources, different objectives, different dreams. Alliances 
have a relation to the respective positions of states—the most powerful ally 
is less alarming if it is remote. If it is not a “permanent ally,” a neighboring 
state easily becomes an enemy. Nevertheless, the essential aspect of a system 
is the configuration of the relation of forces, space itself assuming a diplo¬ 
matic significance only as a function of the localization of great and small 
powers, of stable and unstable states, of sensitive points (in military or po¬ 
litical terms), and pacified zones. 

To define what we mean by the configuration of relation of forces^ it is 
01 n German, Gestaltung der Kraftverhaltnisse. 



simplest to contrast two typical configurations, the multipolar configuration 
and the bipolar configuration. In one case, diplomatic rivalry occurs among 
several units, which all belong to the same class. Various combinations of 
equilibrium are possible; reversals of alliance belong to the normal process 
of diplomacy. In the other, two units outclass all the rest, so that equilibrium 
is possible only in the form of two coalitions, the majority of medium and 
small states being obliged to join the camp of one great power or the other. 

Whatever the configuration, political units constitute a more or less official 
hierarchy, essentially determined by the forces that each is supposed capable 
of mobilizing: at one extreme, the great powers, at the other, the small states, 
the former claiming the right to intervene in all affairs, including those of 
states not concerning them directly, the others having no desire to intervene 
outside their narrow sphere of interest and action, sometimes even resigned 
to submitting to the decisions, regarding a subject that concerns them di¬ 
rectly, taken in concert by the great powers. The latter’s ambition is to in¬ 
fluence and control circumstances, that of the small states to adapt themselves 
to circumstances which, essentially, do not depend on them. Such a contrast, 
of course, is oversimplified and expresses opinions rather than the reality: the 
manner in which the small states adapt themselves to circumstances contrib¬ 
utes to the form circumstances actually assume. 

The distribution of forces in the diplomatic field is one of the causes that 
determine the grouping of states. In an extreme case, two states that have no 
real motive for dispute can become hostile to each other by a “fatality of po¬ 
sition.” Two dominant states are almost inevitably enemies (unless they are 
closely united), merely because an equilibrium exists only on condition that 
each of the two belongs to the opposite camp. When the rivalry' itself creates 
the hostility, the mind or the passions subsequendy find countless means of 
justifying it. In war, too, fury is sometimes the result of the conflict itself, 
not of the conflict’s stake. 

This is an extreme case. Alliances axe not the mechanical effect of the re¬ 
lation of forces. Simplifying, one might say that some great powers are in 
conflict because of the divergence or contradiction of their interests or their 
claims; other powers, great or small, join one side or the other, either out of 
interest (they hope to gain more from the victory of one camp than from that 
of the other), or emotional preference (the sympathies of the population in¬ 
cline to one side more than to the other), or a concern for equilibrium. Great 
Britain had the reputation of taking a position exclusively for this last reason. 
Generally indifferent to details of the map of the Continent, her only aim 
was to forestall the hegemony or empire of a single power. This pure policy 
of equilibrium was logical, for Great Britain had sought neither territory nor 
population on the Continent (since the Hundred Years’ War). It was so 
important to England’s security and prosperity to keep Continental forces 
from uniting against her that British diplomacy could not indulge itself in 
the luxury of ideological considerations. But to be reasonable, she had to ap- 



pear both honorable and cynical: to keep her promises to allies during hos¬ 
tilities, and never to regard an alliance as permanent. 

If the policies of the Continental states did not seem as detached from 
ideological or affective contingencies as the policy of the island state, it was 
not the fault of statesmen, but of circumstances. The European monarchs 
disputed provinces and positions of vantage. Invasions often left bitter mem¬ 
ories. Even in the period of dynastic wars, sovereigns did not switch ally and 
enemy with complete freedom. After the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, no 
French government, however authoritarian, would have agreed to a complete 
reconciliation with Germany. 

Alliances and hostilities are determined, sometimes by the mere relation of 
forces, sometimes by a dispute with a specific stake, most often by a com¬ 
bination of these two factors. With regard to lasting hostilities or alliances, 
the opposition of interests or the convergences of aspirations are primary. 
The long period of wars between France and Great Britain was controlled in 
part by the inevitable hostility of the island state to the chief state on the 
Continent, but at the same time, the colonial enterprises of France and Eng¬ 
land were in conflict on remote territories and on the seas: logically, Eng¬ 
land’s constant goal should have been the destruction of the French fleet or, 
at least, the incontestable superiority of the English fleet, so that mastery of 
the seas might guarantee the expansion and security of the British Empire. 
In the twentieth century the mere calculation of forces does not account for 
British policy. After all, in the abstract, England could have sought allies on 
the Continent to forestall American hegemony: yet such a thing was out of 
the question. To London, American hegemony still seemed to retain some¬ 
thing of English hegemony about it, whereas German hegemony would have 
been felt as alien, humiliating, unacceptable. A change from the pax Britan- 
nica to the pax Americana did not involve a change of universe, and pride, 
rather than the soul itself, suffered. A pax Germanica could not replace 
the pax Britannica without England resisting to the death: only a military 
catastrophe could have cleared the path from one to the other. 

In the last analysis, nations do not fight each other only to maintain a po¬ 
sition of strength. 

2. Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Systems 

The conduct of states towards each other is not controlled by the relation 
of forces alone: ideas and emotions influence the decisions of the actors. A 
diplomatic circumstance is not completely understood so long as we limit 
ourselves to describing the geographical and military structures of the alli¬ 
ances and hostilities, to situating on the map the points of strength, the lasting 
or occasional coalitions, the neutral powers. We must also grasp the determi¬ 
nants of the behavior of the principal actors—in other words, the nature of 
the states and the objectives sought by those in power. Thus the distinction 
between homogeneous systems and heterogeneous systems seems to me funda- 



mentallDz call homogeneous systems those in which the states belong to the 
same type, obey the same conception of policy. 1 call heterogeneous, on the 
other hand, those systems in which the states are organized according to 
different principles and appeal to contradictory values. Between the end of 
the wars of religion and the French Revolution, the European system was 
both multipolar and homogeneous. The American-European system, since 
1945, is both bipolar and heterogeneous. 

Homogeneous systems afford, on first analysis, greater stability. Those in 
power are not unaware of the dynastic or ideological interests that unite them, 
despite the national interests that set them against each other. The recognition 
of homogeneity finds its extreme and formal expression in the formula of the 
Holy Alliance. Against the revolutionaries, the rulers of the sovereign states 
promised each other mutual support. The Holy Alliance was denounced by 
liberals as a conspiracy of kings against peoples. It had no “national justifica¬ 
tion,” since the change of regime did not involve, in the last century', an over¬ 
throw of alliances: a victory of the revolution in Spain would perhaps have 
endangered the Bourbons, not France. At present, each of the two blocs tends 
to revive, for internal use, a Floly Alliance formula. Soviet intervention in 
Hungary was equivalent to proclaiming the right of Russian armies to in¬ 
tervene in every Eastern European nation to repress counterrevolution (as a 
matter of fact, any insurrection against the so-called socialist regime). In the 
West, too, the regimes are virtually allied against revolution. The Floly Alli¬ 
ance against counterrevolution or revolution is in the end necessary to the 
survival of each of the two blocs. 

The homogeneity of the system favors the limitation of violence. So long 
as those in power, in the conflicting states, remain aware of their solidarity, 
they incline to compromise. The revolutionaries are regarded as common ene¬ 
mies of all rulers, and not as the allies of one of the states or alliances. If the 
revolutionaries were to win in one of the states, the regimes of the other 
states would also be shaken. The fear of revolution incites military leaders 
either to resign themselves to defeat or to limit their claims. 

A homogeneous system appears stable, too, because it is foreseeable. If all 
the states have analogous regimes, the latter must be traditional, inherited 
down through the years, not improvised. In such regimes, statesmen obey 
time-tested rules or customs: rivals or allies know on the whole what they can 
expect or fear. 

Lastly, by definition, the states and those who speak in their name are led 
to distinguish between enemy state and political adversary. State hostility 
does not imply hatred, it does not exclude agreements and reconciliations after 
battle. Statesmen, whether victors or vanquished, can deal with the enemy 

all borrow this distinction from a remarkable work by Panoyis Papaligouras: Theorie 
de la societe Internationale, a thesis at the University of Geneva, 1941. The book was 
called to my attention by Mile. J. Hersch. 

ON international systems 


without being accused of tieason by ideologists reproaching them for having 
spared the “criminal’® or by “extremists” accusing them of sacrificing the na¬ 
tional interests to assure the survival of their regimeH 

Heterogeneity of the system produces the opposite. When the enemy ap¬ 
pears also as an adversary, in the sense this term assumes in internal conflicts, 
defeat affects the interests of the governing class and not only of the nation. 
Those in power fight for themselves and not only for the state. Far from 
kings or leaders of the republic being inclined to regard the rebels of the 
other camp as a threat to the common order of warring states, they consider 
it normal to provoke discord among the enemy. The adversaries of the faction 
in power become, whatever their stripe, the allies of the national enemy and 
consequently, in the eyes of some of their fellow citizens, traitors. The “Holy 
Alliance” situation encourages those in power to subordinate their conflicts 
in order to safeguard the common principle of legitimacy. In what we call the 
situation of ideological conflict, each camp appeals to an idea, and the two 
camps are divided, with a number of citizens on either side not desiring, or 
not desiring wholeheartedly, the victory of their own country, if it were to 
mean the defeat of the idea to which they adhere and which the enemy in¬ 

This crisscrossing of civil and inter-state conflicts aggravates the instability 
of the system. The commitment of states to one camp or the other is jeopar¬ 
dized as a result of internal rivalries: hence the chief states cannot ignore 
them. Party struggles objectively become episodes of conflict among states. 
When hostilities break out, a compromise peace is difficult, and the overthrow 
of the government or of the enemy regime almost inevitably becomes one of 
the goals of the war. The phases of major wars—wars of religion, wars of 
revolution and of empire, wars of the twentieth century—have coincided with 
the challenging of the principle of legitimacy and of the organization of 

This coincidence is not accidental, but the causal relation can be, ab¬ 
stractly, conceived in two ways: the violence of war creates the heterogeneity 
of the system or else, on the other hand, this heterogeneity is, if not the 
cause, at least the historical context of great wars. Although we can never 
categorically retain one of the terms of the alternative and exclude the other, 
internal struggles and inter-state conflicts do not always combine in the 
same way. Heterogeneity is not only relative, it can also assume various forms. 

In 1914, was the European system homogeneous or heterogeneous? In 
many respects, homogeneity seemed to prevail. The states recognized each 
other. Even Russia, the least liberal among them, permitted certain oppo¬ 
nents the right to exist, to criticize. Nowhere was the truth of an ideology 

EAs Thorstein Veblen reproached the Allied statesmen in 1918. 

LilAs Guillemin and other leftist writers accused the peace party that triumphed in 
1871. By continuing a revolutionary war, might not the fate of arms have been 



decreed by the state or considered indispensable to the latter’s solidarity. Citi¬ 
zens readily crossed borders and the requirement of a passport, at Russia’s 
borders, caused scandal. No ruling class regarded the overthrow of the regime 
of a potentially hostile state as its goal. The French Republic did not oppose 
the German Empire, any more than the latter opposed the empire of the 
Tsars. The French Republic was allied with the empire of the Tsars ac¬ 
cording to the traditional requirements of equilibrium. 

This homogeneity, apparent as long as peace prevailed, revealed many 
flaws which war was to enlarge. Within it the two principles of legitimacy, 
birth and election, whose conflict had constituted one of the stakes of the 
wars of revolution and empire, had concluded a precarious truce. Compared 
to today’s fascist or Communist regimes, the Kaiser’s and even the Tsar’s 
empires were “liberal.” But the supreme power, the sovereignty, continued 
to belong to the heir of the ruling families. The heterogeneity of the absolutist 
regimes (the sovereign is designated by birth) and of the democratic regimes 
(the sovereign is designated by the people) existed potentially. Of course, so 
long as Tsarist Russia was allied with the Western democracies, neither of 
the two camps could exploit this opposition to the full. After the Russian 
Revolution, Allied propaganda did not hesitate to do so. 

More seriously, the relationship between peoples and nations had also not 
been stabilized in the nineteenth century. The German Empire and the King¬ 
dom of Italy had been constituted in the name of the right of nationality. 
But in Alsace-Lorraine the Reich had given the national idea a meaning that 
the liberals of France and elsewhere had never accepted: was nationality a 
destiny that language or history imposed on individuals, or the freedom of 
each man to choose his state? Further, the territorial status of Europe, based 
on dynastic heritage and the concern for equilibrium, was not compatible 
with the national idea, whatever the latter’s interpretation. Austria-Flungary 
was a multinational empire like the Ottoman Empire. The Poles were neither 
German nor Russian nor Austrian, and they were all subject to an alien law. 

Once war was declared, all belligerent states attempted to appeal to the 
national idea in order to mobilize its dynamism to their advantage. The em¬ 
perors made solemn and vague promises to the Poles, as though they vaguely 
realized that the partition of Poland remained Europe’s sin. Perhaps, too, the 
universalization of the profession of arms suggested to those in power that 
henceforth war must have a meaning for those who risked their lives in it. 

This heterogeneity of the principle of legitimacy (how are those in power 
to be designated? to what state should the populations belong?) did not con¬ 
tradict the fundamental cultural relationship of the members of the Euro¬ 
pean community. It did not inspire any of the states with the desire to de¬ 
stroy the other’s regime. In peacetime each state regarded the other’s regime 
as a matter outside its own concern. Out of liberalism, France and Great 
Britain gave asylum to the Russian revolutionaries, but they gave them neither 
money nor weapons to organize terrorist groups. On the other hand, after 
1916 or 1917, to justify the determination to continue the war to absolute 

ON international systems 


victory, to convince the Allied soldiers that they were defending freedom, to 
dissociate the German people from their regime, Allied propaganda and di¬ 
plomacy attacked absolutism as the cause of the war and of the German 
“crimes,” proclaimed the right of peoples to self-determination (hence the 
dissolution of Austria-Hungary) as the fundamental condition of a just peace, 
and finally refused to deal with those rulers responsible for igniting the 
holocaust. Semi-homogeneous in 1914, the European system had become ir¬ 
remediably heterogeneous by 1917 as a result of the fury of the struggle and 
the Western powers’ need to justify their determination to win decisively. 

Similarly, on the eve of the Peloponnesian War, the Greek city-states 
were relatively homogeneous. They had fought together against the Persians, 
they worshiped the same gods, celebrated the same festivals, competed in the 
same games. Their economic or political institutions belonged to the same 
family, were variations on the same theme. When war to the death was 
launched between Athens and Sparta, each camp recalled that it appealed to 
the authority of democracy or aristocracy (or oligarchy). The goal was less to 
encourage the combatants’ ardor than to weaken the adversary and to make 
allies within the opposite camp. This heterogeneity, which concerns only one 
element of politics, often suffices to transform an inter-state hostility into 
passionate hostility. The meaning of a common culture is effaced and the 
belligerents are now aware only of what separates them. Perhaps, in fact, 
the heterogeneity most inimical to peace or moderation is precisely the kind 
that stands out against a background of community. 

However, heterogeneity of the Greek city-states during the Peloponnesian 
War, or of the European states in 1917 or in 1939 was less well defined than 
the heterogeneity of the Greek city-states and the Persian Empire, of the 
Greek city-states and Macedonia, of the Christian kingdoms and the Ot¬ 
toman Empire, and a fortiori, of the Spanish conquerors and the Inca or 
Aztec empires, or of the European conquerors and the African tribes. These 
examples, in abstract terms, suggest three typical situations: 1. Political units, 
belonging to the same zone of civilization, have often had regular relations 
with political units that, outside this zone, were clearly recognized as differ¬ 
ent or alien. The Greeks, as a consequence of their idea of the free man, 
regarded the subjects of the Oriental empires with some condescension. Islam 
distinguished the Christian kingdoms from the Ottoman Empire without 
prohibiting the alliance of the King of France and the Commander of the 
Faithful. 2. Spaniards on the one hand, Incas and Aztecs on the other, were 
essentially different. The conquistadors triumphed, despite their smaller num¬ 
bers, because of the resentment of the tribes subject to the ruling peoples of 
the empires as well as because of the terrifying effectiveness of their weapons. 
They destroyed the civilizations that they neither could nor desired to under¬ 
stand, without even being aware of committing a crime. 3. Perhaps the re¬ 
lationship between the Europeans and the African Negroes did not differ, 
fundamentally, from the foregoing between Spaniards and Incas. Today’s 
anthropologists urge us not to overlook the specific “culture” of those whom 



our fathers called savages, and not to establish a hierarchy of values too hast¬ 
ily. Nonetheless, I think a distinction is justified between the archaic life 
of the African tribes and the pre-Columbian civilizations. 

With regard to cruelties or horror, we cannot establish an order of greater 
and less, depending on whether we are dealing with wars among related 
and heterogeneous units, wars among units belonging to different civiliza¬ 
tions, wars fought by conquerors against civilizations they were incapable of 
understanding, or lastly wars between civilized men and savages. All con¬ 
querors, whether Mongols or Spaniards, have killed or pillaged. The belliger¬ 
ents have no need to be alien to each other in order to be fierce: political 
heterogeneity, often created or at least amplified by war, is enough. Further, 
the conflict between units of the same family or civilization is often more 
intense and furious than any other, because it is also a civil and religious 
war. Inter-state war becomes civil war once each camp is linked to one of the 
factions within some of the states; it becomes a war of religion if the in¬ 
dividuals are attached to one form of the state more than to the state itself, 
if they compromise civil peace by insisting on the free choice of their God or 
their Church. 

The international systems that include related and neighboring states are 
both the theaters of great wars and the space destined to imperial unification. 
The diplomatic field is enlarged as the units assimilate a greater number of 
the former elementary units. After the Macedonian conquests, the city-states 
together constituted one unit. After the conquests of Alexander and of 
Rome, the Mediterranean basin as a whole was subject to the same laws and 
a single will. As the Roman Empire developed, the distinction between cul¬ 
tural family and state allegiance tended to disappear. The Empire was in 
conflict, on its frontiers, with the “barbarians,” and internally with the rebel 
populations or non-“civilized” masses. Earlier adversaries had become fellow 
citizens. Retrospectively, most wars seem to be civil wars, since they set in 
opposition political units destined to be blended into a superior unit. Before 
the twentieth century the Japanese had fought major wars only among them¬ 
selves, the Chinese had fought among themselves and against barbarians, 
Mongols and Manchus. Indeed, how could it have been otherwise? Collec¬ 
tivities, like persons, are in conflict with their neighbors, who are other, even 
if they are physically or morally quite close. Political units must be huge in 
order for the neighbor to belong to a civilization that the historian, with the 
perspective of centuries, considers authentically other. 

After 1945 the diplomatic field expanded to the limits of the planet, and 
the diplomatic system, despite all internal heterogeneities, now tends to a 
juridical homogeneity, of which the United Nations is the expression. 

3. Transnational Society and International Systems 

International systems, as we have said, are comprised of units that have 
regular diplomatic relations with each other. Now such relations are normally 


io 5 

accompanied by relations among individuals, who make up the various units. 
International systems are the inter-state aspect of the society to which the 
f emulations, subject to distinct sovereignties, belong. Hellenic society or Eu¬ 
ropean society in the fifth century B.c. or in the twentieth century a.d. are 
realities that we shall call transnational, rather than inter- or supranational. 

A transnational society reveals itself by commercial exchange, migration of 
persons, common beliefs, organizations that cross frontiers and, lastly, ceremo¬ 
nies or competitions open to the members of all these units. A transnational 
society flourishes in proportion to the freedom of exchange, migration or com¬ 
munication, the strength of common beliefs, the number of non-national or¬ 
ganizations, and the solemnity of collective ceremonies. 

It is easy to illustrate the vitality of transnational society by examples. 
Before 1914 economic exchanges throughout Europe enjoyed a freedom that 
the gold standard and monetary convertibility safeguarded even better than 
legislation. Labor parties were grouped into an International. The Greek 
tradition of the Olympic Games had been revived. Despite the plurality of 
the Christian Churches, religious, moral and even political beliefs were fun¬ 
damentally analogous on either side of the frontiers. Without many obstacles 
a Frenchman could choose Germany as his place of residence, just as a Ger¬ 
man could decide to live in France. This example, like the similar one of 
Hellenic society in the fifth century', illustrates the relative autonomy of the 
inter-state order—in peace and in war—in relation to the context of trans¬ 
national society. It is not enough for individuals to visit and know each other, 
to exchange merchandise and ideas, for peace to reign among the sovereign 
units, though such communications are probably indispensable to the ulti¬ 
mate formation of an international or supranational community. 

The contrary example is that of Europe and the world between 1946 and 
1953 (and even today, although since 1953 a certain transnational society, 
over the Iron Curtain, is being reconstituted). Commercial exchanges between 
Communist nations and the nations of Western Europe were reduced to a 
minimum. Insofar as they existed, they pertained only to states (at least on 
one side). The “Soviet individual” had no right to deal with a “capitalist in¬ 
dividual,” except by the intermediary of public administration. He could not 
communicate with him without becoming suspect. Inter-individual communi¬ 
cations were generally forbidden unless they were the express of inter-state 
communications: officials and diplomats chatted with their Western col¬ 
leagues, but essentially in the exercise of their functions. 

This total rupture of transnational society had a truly pathological char¬ 
acter: subsequently the Soviet Union has been represented in scientific con¬ 
gresses as in athletic competitions, receives foreign tourists and allows several 
thousand Soviet citizens to visit the West each year, and no longer strictly 
forbids personal contacts with Westerners. Russian wives of English aviators 
have been able to rejoin their husbands. Commercial exchanges have gradu¬ 
ally broadened. Yet it is doubtful if this restoration of transnational society 



has modified essentials: heterogeneity, with regard to the principle of legiti¬ 
macy, the form of the state and the social structure, remains fundamental. 
The Christian community has only a limited scope because political faith is 
stronger than religious faith, the latter having become a strictly private mat¬ 
ter; lastly, no organization, whether political, syndical, or ideological, can 
unite Soviet and Western citizens unless it is in the open or clandestine service 
of the Soviet Union. The heterogeneity of the inter-state system irremediably 
divides transnational society. 

In every period, transnational society has been regulated by customs, con¬ 
ventions or a specific code. The relations that the citizens of a nation at war 
were authorized to maintain with the citizens of the enemy state were con¬ 
trolled by custom rather than by law. Conventions among states specified the 
status of the citizens of each established on the territory of the other. Legisla¬ 
tion made legal or illicit the creation of transnational movements or the 
participation in those professional or ideological organizations intended to be 

From a sociological viewpoint, I am inclined to call private international 
law the law that regulates this transnational society as we have just charac¬ 
terized it, that is, the imperfect society made up of individuals who belong 
to distinct political units and who are, as private persons, in reciprocal rela¬ 
tion. It is entirely to be expected that many jurists regard as municipal law 
all or part of such private international law. Whether in familial or com¬ 
mercial relations, the norms applicable to foreigners or to relations among 
nationals and foreigners are an integral part of the system of norms of the 
state involved. Even if these norms result from an agreement with another 
state, an essential modification does not follow: agreements on double taxa¬ 
tion, for instance, guarantee a hind of reciprocity of treatment, by each of 
the signatory nations, of the other’s citizens, at the same time that they 
protect the taxpayers of each state against a twofold imposition of taxes. The 
consequences of these inter-state conventions take place within the legal 
system of each. 

On the other hand, the propositions, prohibitions and obligations re¬ 
corded in the treaties among states constitute elements of public interna¬ 
tional law. We have, in the two preceding sections, considered the con¬ 
figuration of the relation of forces, then the homogeneity or heterogeneity 
of the systems. The control of international relations is located at the meet¬ 
ing point of the two previous studies. To what degree and in what sense 
are inter-state relations, in peace and in war, subject to law in the same way 
that individual relations, in the family and in business, are today and in a 
sense always have been® 

Inter-state relations, like other social relations, have never been abandoned 

ilThere has always been social control; there is not always a juridical elaboration or 
a fortiori a written law. 



to the purely arbitrary. All so-called higher civilizations have distinguished 
between members of the tribe (or the city, or the state) and the foreigner, 
and between various kinds of foreigners. Treaties were known from earliest 
antiquity—by the Egyptian Empire as by the Hittites. Every civilization has 
had an unwritten code that dictated the manner of dealing with ambas¬ 
sadors, prisoners, or even enemy warriors in combat. What new features does 
public international law provide? 

States have concluded many agreements, conventions or treaties, some of 
which concern transnational society, while others concern both that and 
the international system. To the first category belong, for instance, postal 
conventions, those conventions relative to hygiene, to weights and measures; 
to the second belong questions of maritime law. In the collective interest 
of states and not of individuals alone, international conventions control the 
utilization of seas or rivers, the means of transportation and of communica¬ 
tion. The extension of international law expresses the broadening of the 
collective interests of transnational society or of the international system, the 
increasing need to submit to law the coexistence of human collectivities, 
politically organized on a territorial basis, on the same planet, upon the 
same seas and under the same sky. 

Yet does international law thereby modify the essence of inter-state re¬ 
lations? Controversies relating to international law® ordinarily occur on 
an intermedian’ level between positive law on the one hand and ideologies 
or philosophies on the other, a theoretical level that might be called, to 
borrow the expression of F. Perroux, “implicitly normative.” The obligations 
of international law are those which result from treaties signed by states 
or from custom. On the other hand, “the right of peoples to self-determina¬ 
tion,” “the principle of nationalities,” “collective security” are vague formulas, 
ideologies that influence statesmen, eventually even the interpretation jurists 
make of positive law. It cannot be said that they serve as the basis of a 
system of norms, that they involve, for states, specific privileges or duties. 
Now the jurist who seeks to define the nature of international law at¬ 
tempts to put positive law in a conceptual form, to discover its specific 
meaning. But this interpretation is not included in positive law itself. The 
latter allows various interpretations. Juridical theory, even more than eco¬ 
nomic theory, conceals an element of doctrine. It brings to light the meaning 
of juridical reality, but this apparent discovery is also an interpretation, in¬ 
fluenced by the theoretician’s idea of what international law should be. 

In the unanimous opinion of jurists, an important, if not the principal, 
datum of international law is the treaty. Yet treaties have rarely been 
signed freely by all the high contracting parties. They express the relation 
of forces; they consecrate the victory of one and the defeat of the other. 

ElWe do not add in each case the word ■public. But it is understood that the inter¬ 
national law to which we henceforth refer is what jurists call public international law. 



Now the principle of pacta sunt servanda, if it is not the originating norm 
or the moral basis of international law, is nevertheless its condition of 
existence. But international law thereby tends to assume a conservative 
quality. It is the victor of the latest war who invokes the principle against 
the claims of the vanquished, the latter having meanwhile reconstituted 
his forces. In other words, the stabilization of a juridical order based on 
the reciprocal commitments of states would be satisfactory in one of the 
two following hypotheses: either if the states had concluded treaties that 
were considered equitable by all, or if there existed a claim acknowledged 
by all and capable of being satisfied by reference to indisputable criteria of 

It is true that treaties follow the formula pacta sunt servanda with the 
words rebus sic stantibus: it remains to be seen whether subsequent changes 
justify modification of the treaty. The Western powers have the juridically 
incontestable right to occupy a part of the former capital of the Reich. 
But their presence there was related to the project of a united Germany. 
If this project is abandoned and the division of Germany accepted, is it 
advisable to modify the treaties because the context has changed? To this 
question there is no juridical answer. 

If treaties are the source for international law, it is because the subjects 
of the law are states. But by the same token, major historical events, those 
by which the states are bom and die, are external to the juridical order. 
The Baltic states have ceased to exist, they are no longer subjects of law; 
nothing the Soviet Union does on the territories that, in 1939, were subject 
to the Estonian or Lithuanian sovereignty any longer relates to interna¬ 
tional law, at least in the eyes of those of the states that have ceased to 
“recognize” Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia (that is, almost every state). 
When a state is crossed off the map of the world, it is the victim of a viola¬ 
tion of international law. If no one comes to its aid, it will soon be forgotten 
and the state that has delivered the coup de grace will be no less welcome 
in the assemblies of so-called peaceful nations. Ideologies scarcely permit us 
to affirm or deny, in the abstract or even in specific circumstances, that 
certain peoples have or do not have the right to constitute themselves into 
a nation. In other words, even the unbiased observer often hesitates to 

Ebr, if one prefers, they are the creators of this order. Certain modem jurists, H. 
Kelsen for instance, deny that the birth and death of states are metajuridical facts. 
Granting the theory according to which recognition is more a political than a juridical 
act, and by no means a formative one, they affirm that international law describes as 
a “state" those cases that merit this designation. “The juridical existence of the new 
state does not depend on recognition, hut on the objective fulfillment of certain con¬ 
ditions assigned by international law for a state to be recognized." (“Theorie generale 
du droit international public,” Recueil des cours de VAcademie de droit international, 
42, 1932, p. 287.) If we admit this system, we would say that historical events create 
conditions of fact which are qualified by international law (and not by the will of 
existing states), as the birth or death of a state. 



assert that a specific violation of the territorial status quo is just or unjust, 
conforms to or violates, in the long or short run, the interest of the nation 
directly involved, or of the international community. 

The laws of states come into effect, one might say, the day the states 
themselves are recognized. Non-organized rebels do not benefit from any 
legal protection. The legitimate authority treats them as criminals and must 
treat them as such if it wishes to preserve itself. If the rebels are organized 
and exercise authority over a part of the territory, they obtain certain bel¬ 
ligerent rights; the situation becomes that of a civil war and, in practice, 
the distinction tends to be effaced between “legitimate authority” and “reb¬ 
els,” which appear as two rival governments, the outcome of the war de¬ 
ciding the legality or illegality of the belligerents. International law can 
merely ratify the fate of arms and the arbitration of force. In a few years 
the Algerian FLN changed from a band of “rebels” to “a government in 
exile.” In a few more, in the name of national sovereignty, it functioned 
freely within the frontiers of an independent Algeria. 

Jurists have elaborated the rules that are to be imposed upon states or 
that the latter ought to impose in case of civil war. In fact, practice varies, 
even in modem times, as a result of many circumstances. There are, as we 
have seen, two extreme cases: the homogeneous system can lead to the 
Holy Alliance, to the common defense of the established order, to the re¬ 
pression by the French army of the Spanish Revolution of 1827 or by the 
Russian army of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. On the other hand, in 
a heterogeneous system, each camp supports the rebels opposing a regime 
favorable to the enemy camp. The rules of “non-intervention” weTe elab¬ 
orated and more or less applied during intermediate periods, when neither 
powers nor revolutionaries had partisans across the frontiers. If there exists 
neither a popular nor a royal 'Internationale, states abstain from siding with 
the sovereign or the rebels, because in fact the victory of the one or the 
other does not profoundly affect them. 

Juridical norms need to be interpreted. Their meaning is not always 
evident and their application to a specific case leads to controversy. Now 
international law does not determine the organ that, in regard to inter¬ 
pretation, holds the supreme power. If states have not promised to submit 
their cases to the International Court of Justice^ each signatory actually 
reserves the right of interpreting the treaties in its own way. As states have 
different juridical and political conceptions, the international law to which 
they subscribe will involve contradictory interpretations, will be split, in 
fact, into many orders, based on the same texts but leading to incompatible 

Moreover, states need only fail to “recognize” the same states or the same 
governments, to reveal the scope of these incompatible interpretations. Sup¬ 
posing that states agree on their conduct with regard to “rebels” or “legal 

GDOr if they remain judges of the application of such a promise. 



government,” it is enough that a group of men be rebels in the eyes of 
some and, in the eyes of others, represent the legal authority, for the 
juridical order, embracing a heterogeneous system, to reveal its internal con¬ 
tradiction. States will not attach the same descriptions to the same situa¬ 
tions of fact. The FLN was treated as a “band of rebels” by some, as a legal 
government by others. The government of the German Democratic Re¬ 
public is a “so-called government” or an “authentic government.” The cross¬ 
ing of the 38th Parallel by the North Korean armies was a "civil-war 
episode” or an “act of aggression.” 

It will be objected that such interpretations are not probable to the same 
degree, and there is no denying the fact. The Korean demarcation line 
had been drawn by agreement between the Soviet Union and the United 
States. The FLN “rebels” exerted no regular power over any part of the 
Algerian territory in 1958. Objectively, to an observer applying traditional 
criteria unburdened by ideology, one interpretation would be preferable to 
another. But why should states apply this interpretation if it is not favorable 
to their undertakings? States are anxious to maintain the juridical order 
that suits their common interest when they recognize each other’s regimes. 
But this reciprocal recognition is limited, in a heterogeneous system, by 
ideological rivalry. Each camp seeks not necessarily to destroy the states in 
the other camp, but to weaken or overthrow their regimes: juridical in¬ 
terpretation, even when it is concretely improbable, is utilized as an in¬ 
strument of subversive war, a means of diplomatic pressure. 

Lastly, supposing that the community of states is in agreement as to the 
true interpretation (in Hungary, the legal government was that of Imre 
Nagy, the insurrection was staged by the people and not by foreign agitators 
or American agents), it is still necessary to punish or constrain the state 
violating the law. Here, too, international law differs, on an essential point, 
from municipal law. The only effective sanction against the state that has 
committed the illicit act is the use of force. The guilty state also possesses 
arms, it does not agree to submit to the judgment of an arbitrator or to the 
vote of an assembly. Hence an effort to enforce the law will involve a 
risk of war. Either Gribouille or Gandhi: to punish the violators of the 
law, a war is precipitated which it was the law’s function to forestall; or 
else the injustice is merely proclaimed and endured, although the con¬ 
querors are usually less sensitive to non-violence than the British of the 
twentieth century. 

Does this international law, which involves neither indisputable inter¬ 
pretation nor effective sanction, which applies to subjects whose birth and 
death it is limited to certifying, which cannot last indefinitely but which 
cannot be revised, does this international law belong to the same genre as 
municipal law? Most jurists reply in the affirmative, and I shall not con¬ 
tradict them. I prefer to show differences between kinds rather than deny 
membership in the same genre. 



4. Legalize War or Outlaw It? 

The very title of Grotius’ famous work, De Jure Belli et Pads, does not 
treat the entire substance of international law, but certainly covers its prin¬ 
cipal objects. Yet this formula suffices to suggest the dilemma confronting 
jurists and philosophers: Must international law legalize war or, on the 
contrary, proscribe it? Must it foresee or exclude the possibility of war? 
Must it limit or outlaw war? 

Before 1914 the answer, given by history, was unambiguous. European 
public international law had never taken the outlawing of war as its object 
or principle. Quite the contrary, it provided the forms in which war must 
be declared, it forbade the use of certain means, it regulated the modes of 
armistice and the signing of peace, it imposed obligations upon the neutral 
powers with regard to the belligerents, upon the belligerents with regard 
to civilian populations, prisoners, etc. In short, it legalized and limited war, 
it did not make it a crime. 

War being legal, the belligerents could regard each other as enemies with¬ 
out hating or vituperating each other. States fought, not persons. No doubt 
a war’s legality did not settle the moral question of discovering whether or 
not it was just. But the belligerent, even when responsible for an unjust 
war, still remained a legal enemy® 

Why did the classical jurists maintain moral judgments as to the respective 
conduct of states in conflict side by side with juridical judgments which 
legalized the conflicts for both sides? The reason was clearly indicated in 
the works of the seventeenth and above all the eighteenth century: granted 
that monarchs, if they are wise and virtuous, should not wage war for 
glory or amusement, covet lands or wealth that do not belong to them, 
yet how could sovereigns neglect the requirements of their security? If a 
prince accumulates so many forces that he will soon be in a position to 
crush his neighbors, will the latter passively suffer the destruction of an 
equilibrium that is the only guarantee of security in inter-state relations? 

The classical jurists were not only aware of the ambiguities we have 
analyzed above, the necessary distinction between initiating hostilities and 
aggression, between the responsibility for origins and the responsibility for 
the stakes; they admitted the moral legitimacy of action dictated hy the 
requirements of equilibrium, even if this action were aggressive. They 
would have subscribed, with varying degrees of reservation, to Montes- 

GDFor instance, Emer de Vattel, in Le Droit des gens ou principes de la loi naturelle 
appliques a la conduite et aux affaires des nations et des souverains (1758), Book III, 
Chap. 3, paragraph 39: “However, it may happen that the contenders are each acting 
in good faith; and in a doubtful cause it is still uncertain on which side the right may 
be. Since, then, the nations are equal and independent and cannot make themselves 
judges of each other, it follows that in any case susceptible of doubt, the arms of both 
sides making war must equally pass as legitimate, at least as to external effects and 
until the cause is decided.” Or again, more concisely: “War in form, as to its effects, 
must be regarded as just on either side." (Book III, Chap. 12, paragraph 190.) 



quieu’s formula quoted above, according to which "the right of natural 
defense sometimes involves the necessity of attacking.” Hence it became 
difficult to establish with certainty which was the true aggressor (and not 
the apparent aggressor). The morality of equilibrium involved a kind of 
casuistry and did not exclude recourse to arms. 

Rousseau and Hegel alike have furnished extreme expressions of the key 
ideas of this European law of nations. In the Contrat social, Rousseau 
writes: “War is not a relation between man and man, but between state and 
state, in which individuals are enemies only occasionally, not as men nor 
even as fellow citizens, but as soldiers. Not as members of their nation, 
but as its defenders. Lastly, each state may have as its enemy only other 
states, and not men, since among things of different natures, no true relation 
can be deduced.” In a purely inter-state war, individuals have no motive 
for hating each other, and a victorious state must cease doing harm to the 
subjects of the enemy state, once the latter admits defeat. Violence is 
limited to the clash of armies. 

Still more radical are Hegel’s texts, in the last part of the Philosophy of 
Law. “International law results from relations of independent states. Its con¬ 
tent in and for itself has a prescriptive form because its realization depends on 
distinct sovereign wills.” Such a formula is equivalent to suggesting that 
because of the plurality of sovereign states, the concrete obligations of in¬ 
ternational law cannot be enforced by sanctions: they remain prescriptive, 
like morality. 

“The basis of international law as a universal law which must be valid 
in and for itself among states, insofar as it differs from the specific content 
of contracts, is that treaties must be respected. Pacta sunt servanda. For it is 
upon them that the obligations of states in relation to each other rest. But 
since their relation has their sovereignty as its principle, they are, in re¬ 
lation to each other, in the state of nature and do not have their law in a 
universal will authoritatively established over and above them, but their 
reciprocal relation has its reality in a particular will.” The formula is pre¬ 
cisely the one suggested by the analyses of the preceding section. Inter¬ 
national law consists of commitments made, implicitly or explicitly, by states 
to each other. Since states do not lose their sovereignty the day they 
make these commitments, war remains possible either because the parties 

EHVattel has reservations as to Montesquieu’s formula, preferring confederations to 
preventive war in order to maintain equilibrium, yet he writes CBook III, Chap. 3, 
paragraph 42): “It is unfortunate for the human race that one can almost always 
presume the will to oppress where one finds the power to oppress without punishment. 
... It is perhaps unprecedented that a state should receive some notable increase in 
power without giving others good cause for complaint. . . And lastly this formula 
on the legitimacy of preventive attack: “One is justified in forestalling a danger by 
reason of both the degree of appearance and the greatness of the evil by which one 
is threatened.” 

ON international systems 


are not in agreement as to the interpretation of the treaties, or because 
one or the other desires to modify its terms. 

"On the other hand, even in war as a non-juridical situation of violence 
and contingency, there exists a connection in the fact that states recognize 
each other as such. In this connection they are valid for each other as 
existing in and for themselves. So that in war itself, war is determined as 
necessarily transitory.” War is the juridical state, foreseen in advance, that 
suspends most of the obligations that states contract toward one another 
in peacetime, but that do not thereby lose all legal character. The bellig¬ 
erents do not employ any and all means, and when violence breaks out 
they do not forget the future restoration of their juridical relations (a 
valid proposition, on condition that the very existence of the state is not the 
stake of the hostilities). 

This classical conception had always seemed unsatisfactory to some phi¬ 
losophers; it was scarcely compatible with the obligatory character of law, 
and it became unacceptable to popular opinion after the First World War. 
So many dead, so much material destruction, so many horrors could no 
longer be accepted as in accord with the course of human events. War must 
no longer be an episode in inter-state relations, it should be outlawed, in 
the true sense of the word. The victors having decreed that the van¬ 
quished were responsible for the outbreak of hostilities, the initiation of 
hostilities was regarded, retrospectively, as criminal. A League of Nations 
was established whose task was to maintain the peace. Ten years later, at 
the instigation of the United States, the Kellogg-Briand peace pact pro¬ 
claimed still more formally the illegality of war as a political instrument. 

The juridical system of the League of Nations and of the Kellogg- 
Briand peace pact collapsed because the dissatisfied states sought to modify 
the established order and because the international organ did not have 
the means either to impose by peaceful methods the changes justice eventu¬ 
ally required or to stop the revolutionary states. When Japan transformed 
Manchuria into Manchukuo and was condemned by the League of Na¬ 
tions, she left Geneva. The aggression was flagrant, but what could the 
League do if the states with power were determined not to use it? Similarly, 
Germany left Geneva when it did not obtain satisfaction in the matter of 

The Italian iivasion of Ethiopia did not differ much from other European 
undertakings in Asia or Africa. But since Ethiopia had been admitted to 
the League of Nations, since the principle of equality of nations, whether 
great or small, civilized or barbarian JlB had been proclaimed, the Italian 
conquest could not be tolerated without destroying the very foundations 
of the juridical order bom of the First World War and French policy. 

Ell Supposing that one can still, according to the ideas of our epoch, distinguish the 
one from the other. 


II 4 

Sanctions were voted and partially applied, but the League refrained from 
applying the sanction that had the greatest likelihood of being effective 
(petroleum). Yet let us recall, the member states of the League of Nations, 
even the two major ones alone (France and Great Britain), outclassed 
Italy, which Germany, then rearming, could not support. The risk that 
Italy would answer the threat of force with force was slight, so striking 
was the disparity between the aggressor’s resources on the one hand, and 
those of the conservative powers on the other. Either because Paris or 
London did not wish to upset the Fascist regime, or because they wished 
to avoid any risk of war whatever, only those sanctions that could neither 
paralyze Italy nor provoke a military rejoinder from her were applied. 
Whatever the motives of statesmen, it was apparent that governments and 
peoples were not accepting the sacrifices of conflict for a cause that would 
not have been or would not have seemed strictly national. If the inter¬ 
national law that forbids aggressions and conquests has its origin in trans¬ 
national society, the latter did not exist or existed only ineffectually, judging 
by the emotions and desires of men. 

Juridical formalism, seeking to exclude war as a means of settling dif¬ 
ferences or modifying territorial status, has not been abandoned in the 
wake of failure, landmarked by the wars in Manchuria, Ethiopia, China, 
and finally the double, generalized war in Europe and the Far East. In 
1945 an attempt was made to use the international law outlawing war to 
punish the Nazi leaders. During the Nuremberg trials “the conspiracy 
against peace” was only one of the indictments made against the leaders of 
the Third Reich, and war crimes do not concern us in the present context. 
On the other hand, the attempt to shift from aggression, an international 
crime, to the determination and punishment of the guilty illustrates an 
aspect of the problem that appears once international law tries to deduce 
all the consequences of “outlawing war.” 

Among the belligerents, one—state or bloc—is juridically criminal. What 
is the result of this “incrimination” of war that was once merely called unjust? 
Optimistically, let us suppose that the criminal state is defeated. Flow is it 
to be punished, and where are the criminals? Suppose we punish the 
state itself—in other words, amputate its territory, forbid it to arm, and 
deprive it of a share of its sovereignty. Now what matters most is that the 
clauses of the peace treaty prevent war’s return: is it wise that the desire 
for punishment, however legitimate, should influence the treatment of the 
enemy and the clauses of the peace treaty? And we are considering, let us 
recall, the optimistic hypothesis. It is easy to imagine the use that the 
victorious Reich would have made of its right to punish the “criminal” 
states (Poland, France, Great Britain). 

If it is a question of punishing not the state or the nation but the 
persons by whose agency the state has committed the "crime against the 
peace,” a single formula would be quite satisfactory, the one that occurs in 



several speeches of Sir Winston Churchill: One man, one man alone. If one 
man alone has taken the decisions that have committed a people, if one 
man alone possessed absolute power and acted in solitude, then this man 
incarnated the criminal state and deserves to be punished for the nation’s 
crime. But such a hypothesis is never completely fulfilled, the leader’s com¬ 
panions have shared in his decision, have conspired with him against peace 
and for conquest. How far is the search for the guilty to be carried? To 
what degree are the duties of obedience or national solidarity to be con¬ 
sidered as absolving excuses? 

Further, even if this search for the criminal individuals, who must pay 
for the state whose leaders or instruments they chose to be, were juridically 
satisfactory, it would remain fraught with dangers. Would statesmen yield 
before having exhausted every means of resistance, if they knew that in the 
enemy’s eyes they are criminals and will be treated as such in case of 
defeat? It is perhaps immoral, but it is most often wise, to spare the leaders 
of an enemy state, for otherwise these men will sacrifice the lives and 
wealth and possessions of their fellow citizens or their subjects in the vain 
hope of saving themselves. If war as such is criminal, it will be inexpiable. 

Further still: even in the case of the last war, for which the major re¬ 
sponsibility was manifestly Germany’s, it is far from the case that innocent 
states and guilty states were all on one side or the other. Before 1939 the 
international system was heterogeneous. A complex heterogeneity, more¬ 
over, since three regimes were in conflict, profoundly hostile to one another, 
each of them inclined to put its two adversaries “in the same sack.” To the 
Communists, fascism and parliamentary government were only two modes 
of capitalism. To the Western powers, communism and fascism represented 
two versions of totalitarianism. To the fascists, parliamentary government 
and communism, expressions of democratic and rationalist thought, marked 
two stages in degeneration, that of plutocracy and that of despotic leveling. 
But under duress each of these regimes consented to acknowledge elements 
of relationship with one of its adversaries. During the war Stalin dis¬ 
tinguished between the fascisms that destroyed workers’ organizations and 
liberties and the regimes of bourgeois democracy which at least tolerated 
unions and parties. But at the time of the Russo-German Pact, he hailed 
the love of the German people for their Fiihrer and the “meeting of two 
revolutions.” The Western democracies, at the time of the anti-fascist coali¬ 
tion or of the Great Alliance, believed they discovered a community of 
aspiration with the Left, but when the Iron Curtain fell on the demarcation 
line, they recalled that Red totalitarianism was worth no more than the 
Brownshirt variety had been. As for the fascists, they were ready, depending 
on circumstances, to ally themselves with either communism in the in¬ 
terests of the revolution, or with the bourgeois democracies against Soviet 
barbarism and for the defense of civilization. 



This ternary heterogeneity, as it might be called, excluded the formation 
of blocs depending on the internal regime, a circumstance resulting from 
ideological dualism. It also gave the advantage to those states, tactically 
free in their maneuvers, capable of allying themselves with one of their 
enemies against the other. Now France and Great Britain could ally them¬ 
selves with the Soviet Union against fascism (though it required imminent 
aggression for the Right to agree to such a step), but they could not ally 
themselves with fascism, because of the unshakable opposition of the Left. 
Finally, the Soviet Union had the most trumps, since it accepted any kind of 
enemy as a provisional ally and was similarly accepted by any of them. 

The Soviet Union and the Western democracies had one interest in com¬ 
mon: to prevent the Third Reich from outstripping one or another of the 
hostile blocs. But forestalling war was to the interest of France and Eng¬ 
land, not necessarily of the Soviet Union. To turn the first German 
aggression westward corresponded to Soviet interest, as it would have cor¬ 
responded to the Western interest that the Soviet Union should receive 
the first attack. The Russo-German Pact did not extend beyond the frame¬ 
work of traditional Machiavellianism. 

But once all the states were participating in this tragic game, the Soviet 
aggression against Poland, then against Finland and the Baltic countries, 
however incontestable on the juridical level, could be interpreted as a de¬ 
fensive reply, by anticipation, to the foreseeable Hitlerian aggression. When 
the intentions of a neighboring and powerful state are obvious, must the 
designated victim wait passively? The invasion of Germany by French 
troops in March 1936 would perhaps have been condemned by world 
opinion; it would have saved the peace. The classical jurists were familiar 
with the impossibility of resorting to the criterion of “initiative” alone to 
establish responsibility, and they regarded it as the major reason for legal¬ 
izing war. As for the Nuremberg judges, who included one Russian, they 
obviously ignored the aggression of which the Soviet Union, according to 
the letter of the law, was incontestably guilty with regard to Poland, Fin¬ 
land and the Baltic States. An inevitable discretion, but one that illustrates 
all too well the formula of injustice: two weights, two measures. 

In the prewar international system the desire of dissatisfied states to upset 
the status quo was the primary datum. Among those states threatened by 
this revolutionary desire, some were more conservative and others less. But 
all being eager to prevent a German hegemony, each hoped to stop Hitler 
with a minimum of expense to itself, and to derive a maximum of benefit from 
the victory. Finally, the expenses were enormous for all, but the benefits were 
also enormous for the one that had, perhaps out of fear of the coalition of 
the capitalist nations, given Hitler the occasion to loose the holocaust. 

In such a circumstance it is easier for the moralist to blame these ma¬ 
neuvers than for the politician to find a substitute for them. 


II 7 

5. Ambiguities of Recognition and Aggression 

The juridical order created after the Second World War and of which 
the United Nations is the expression is based on the same principles as 
the Versailles Covenant of the League of Nations. This time the United 
States has inspired this order and desires to maintain it, instead of sug¬ 
gesting its conception and thereafter withdrawing, as it had done after the 
First World War. 

This juridical order henceforth extends to almost all the world’s population 
(Germany, by reason of its division, and Communist China being the two 
notable exceptions), and thereby applies to realities historically and politically 
heterogeneous. The heterogeneity, masked by the principle of equality of na¬ 
tions, is that of the political units themselves: Yemen, Liberia, Haiti are 
proclaimed sovereign with the same qualification and the same prerogatives 
as the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States. Some regard this 
as decisive progress in relation to diplomatic circumstances early in the cen¬ 
tury, when Europeans considered their domination over so many non-Euro¬ 
peans quite natural. Fortunate or not, the development is incontestable: fifty 
years ago, juridical equality was granted to few states outside the European 
and American sphere; today it is granted to all, whatever their resources or 
institutions. International law, which was first that of the Christian nations, 
then that of the civilized nations, is henceforth applied to the nations of all 
continents, provided they are peace-lovingP^ 

Even more than historical heterogeneity,^ political heterogeneity burdens 
the juridical order. Communist states and democratic states are not only differ¬ 
ent, they are, as such, enemies. The Soviet leaders, according to their doctrine, 
regard the capitalist states as committed to belligerent expansion and con¬ 
demned to death. America’s leaders, according to their interpretation of 
Communist ideology, are convinced that the masters of the Kremlin aspire 
to world domination. In other words, the states in each bloc do not present, 
in the eyes of the other bloc, that peace-loving character which, according to 
the Charter , 0 would qualify them for United Nations membership. The 
liberal states, if they acted according to the logic of their convictions, would 
not admit the totalitarian ones, which they regard as imperialist, into the 
international juridical community, and the latter would adopt the same atti¬ 
tude with regard to them. 

As a matter of fact, the decision was taken to ignore this political and 
historical heterogeneity, at least at Lake Success or in New York. NATO 
and the Warsaw Pact, whose spokesmen exchange Homeric insults and whose 
member states multiply military preparations, express the real hostilities, im¬ 
plied by facts and ideas. In the United Nations the states, externally hostile, 

EUCf. B. V. A. Roling: International Law in an Expanded World, Amsterdam, i960. 
UlCf. below, Chap. XIII. 

! i 3 Article 4. 



find themselves within the same assembly and, depending on the day, give 
each other evidence of their good intentions or accuse each other of the worst 

As to the historical inequalities of nations, they have been taken into ac¬ 
count only with regard to the choice of five permanent members of the Se¬ 
curity Council (the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, 
China). In 1961 the Chinese seat remained occupied by the representatives 
of Chiang Kai-shek—that is, of the so-called Nationalist regime which had 
taken refuge in Formosa. In the Assembly, one vote is as good as another,^ 
although the Great Powers possess, in fact, a clientele. 

The circumstance of juridical and historical heterogeneity on the one hand, 
and the juridical formalism of equality of nations on the other, gives the no¬ 
tion of recognition a decisive importance. Since a state has the right to handle 
internally everything pertaining to its sovereignty, since it even has the 
rightE of appealing to foreign troops, everything depends on what I shall 
call the governmental incarnation of the state. The same facts receive a con¬ 
trary juridical description depending on whether one government or the 
other is recognized as legal. 

The sending of American forces to Lebanon and of British forces to Jordan 
(1958) was not regarded as contrary to international law and the United 
Nations Charter because it occurred upon the request of the “legal govern¬ 
ments.” If the King of Iraq and Nuri Said had escaped the conspirator^ 
and appealed to English and American troops for help, would the latter’s 
intervention have been illegal? Let us suppose that the Hungarian govern¬ 
ment, legal in the eyes of the United Nations, had not been that of Imre 
Nag}' but that of the “Stalinists”; the intervention of the Russian divisions, 
called in by the “legal government,” would then have been scarcely more con¬ 
trary to international juridical formalism than the landing of American troops 
in Lebanon. Starting from the determination of the “subject of law,” the 
consequences inexorably follow: in some cases one wonders if a certain de 
facto state (the German Democratic Republic, North Korea) will be recog¬ 
nized as a “subject of law,” a legal state; in others, one wonders which group 
of men or which party represents the state, whose existence no one denies 
(the two blocs do not put the existence of a Hungarian state in doubt, but 
did Kadar or Nagy preside over the legal government on November 3, 

Thus we see that the problem of recognition has been at the core of dip¬ 
lomatic discussions since 1945, whether Korea, China or Germany was in 

HD The Soviet Union, of course, possesses three votes, the Ukraine and White Russia 
being regarded as states. 

MJWhich the jurists dispute but which has become a practice. 

InlA further reason, for the latter, to put them to death immediately. 

EHOn November 3, 1957, there was no longer any doubt that it was the Kadar gov¬ 
ernment: international law forgets the birth and death of governments. 

ON international systems 


question. Jurists had elaborated “implicitly normative” theories of recognition, 
held forth on the distinction between de facto and de jure recognition, ob¬ 
served the various practices of states. These practices and distinctions are 
illuminated only by reference to policy. 

Let us start from an uncontested proposition: according to custom, states 
enjoy a certain liberty of recognizing or not recognizing any state which has 
just been created (Guinea in 1958) or any government which has just as¬ 
sumed power. The United States has employed non-recognition in dealing 
with the revolutionary governments of South America, and with “territorial 
modifications imposed by force,” non-recognition being a diplomatic instru¬ 
ment. The American leaders hoped to prevent coups d'etat or conquests by 
letting it be known in advance that they would not acknowledge the conse¬ 
quences. The United States took years to extend de jure recognition to the 
Soviet Union (sixteen in fact: from 1917 to 1933). Although de jure recog¬ 
nition does not constitute an approval of the methods and principles of the 
regime to which it is granted, the diplomats have added one concept, that of 
de facto recognition, halfway between non-recognition and full and complete 

The weapon of non-recognition has been ultimately ineffectual, against 
both revolutions and conquests. The leaders of a revolution, like those of the 
imperialist state, know that in the long run the power of reality is irresistible. 
It is impossible to ignore the de facto authorities indefinitely, on the pretext 
that their origins are disagreeable and their methods reprehensible. Yet recog¬ 
nition has not thereby become simple and automatic. On the contrary, one 
might distinguish, sociologically if not juridically, two modes of de facto 
recognition and two modes of de jure recognition. 

I should call implicit de facto recognition the kind that consists in dealing 
with a de facto authority, while denying its legal existence. Such is the case 
with the relations of the Western states with the German Democratic Repub¬ 
lic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or D.D.R.). To reduce as much as 
possible the element of recognition which the contracts contain, the Western 
powers, in particular the Bonn leaders, have insisted that the economic agree¬ 
ments between the two Germanies be signed by functionaries of inferior rank. 
There would be de facto recognition if agreements in good and due form, 
on the governmental level, were concluded with the D.D.R. 

As for de jure recognition, it has, depending on circumstances, two histor¬ 
ically different meanings. If the regimes of the states that recognize each 
other are the same, or different but not opposed, the recognition is valid in 

UlThe distinction is juridically dubious, since recognition, even de jure, could only 
be the recognition of a fact, the fact that a state or a regime or a government exists. 
The actual government, by a group of men, of an independent collectivity—such 
must be the non-ideological meaning of recognition, but, in a heterogeneous system, 
recognition always has political consequences and ideological implications. Hence gov¬ 
ernments use the modalities of recognition, or non-recognition, for their own purposes. 



all circumstances. The states could fight each other without either one at¬ 
tempting to overthrow the other’s regime and instigate or support rebels. On 
the other hand, when two states whose regimes are directly contradictory 
grant each other de jure recognition, neither of the two governments es¬ 
tablished at the beginning of the hostilities would survive defeat. Even in 
peacetime, ideological hostility is expressed in many ways, neither of the states 
being capable of completely separating national interests and ideological in¬ 

Over all the territories liberated by Eastern and Western armies, the dis¬ 
pute of recognition has assumed a harsh character. In Korea, only the Re¬ 
public of South Korea was recognized by the United Nations, North Korea 
having stubbornly refused to apply the U.N. decisions relative to free elec¬ 
tions and unification. Further, the crossing of the 38th Parallel was the 
action of the North Korean army; responsibility for the aggression (initiation 
of hostilities) was therefore unequivocal. But, according to Soviet ideological 
interpretation, the North Korean aggression was primarily a civil war, the 
attempt of the true (Communist) Korea to free the Koreans established on 
the other side of the demarcation line from the imperialist yoke. In appear¬ 
ance, the United Nations succeeded in mobilizing the neutral powers against 
the aggressor, a feat the League of Nations had been unable to accomplish 
against Italy. In reality, it was the American action that assured resistance to 
the aggressor and not a United Nations decision, which was effected only by 
the absence of the Soviet Union.^ Further, the victim suffered no less than 
the aggressor, and the United Nations command, far from punishing North 
Koreans and Chinese aggressors, dealt with them in the fashion of any 
government that was eager to end, by a peace without victory, a secondary 

In Germany the Western powers refuse to extend de facto or de jure 
recognition to the D.D.R., because in their eyes the Bonn Republic represents 
all Germany. The Soviets, on the contrary, recognize the Federal Republic to 
the same degree that they recognize the D.D.R.; they have everything to 
gain from such a recognition, which serves them as an argument with regard 
to the Western powers, who are urged to treat Pankow as they themselves 
treat Bonn. 

Stranger still is the non-recognition of Communist China by the United 
States and most of the Western powers. The Peking regime exhibits the 
characteristics of a legal government, at least as much as the regimes of 
Eastern Europe. Washington may regard it as illegitimate, but in that case it 
should regard the Soviet regime in Russia as illegitimate too. As for the 
Chinese aggression in Korea or the treatment of a number of American citi¬ 
zens, these facts do not differ from those that might be invoked against the 
Soviet Union. Non-recognition is merely the means of preserving the prestige 
of legality for the Chiang Kai-shek government. Similarly, the United States 

H^Because of this fact, the legality of the decision is in doubt. 



defends Formosa, Quemoy and Matsu against the ventures of the Chinese 
Communists as the result of an agreement with the legal government of 

Thus the Peking government is not “recognized” by a number of the 
Western states, although it presents all the characteristics of de facto govern¬ 
ment Ceffective control of territory and population), necessary and sufficient, 
according to most jurists, to justify recognition. Conversely, the FLN, estab¬ 
lished in Cairo or Tunis, was recognized by most governments of the Arab 
nations, though it exercised no regular authority over any portion of the 
Algerian territory. In a heterogeneous system, recognition is a means of diplo¬ 
matic or military action. It aims at morally reinforcing improvised or revolu¬ 
tionary organizations. The recognition of the FLN was a proclamation of 
sympathy for the Nationalist Algerian camp, the affirmation that French policy 
was condemned and the rebel action sanctified by the principle of self- 
determination. Let us conclude the analysis: for the determination of the 
subjects of law to be unequivocal, the principle of legitimacy and its inter¬ 
pretation must be unequivocal too, in which case, in what manner must self- 
determination be applied? By what methods must governments he chosen? 
But the very heterogeneity that prevents an unequivocal determination of the 
subjects of law also forbids reaching a definition, unanimously accepted, of 

The reasons why attempts to define aggression have failed are many and 
complex^ The attitudes of the various states on this subject have been, in 
each circumstance, dictated by considerations of expedience. In 1945 the 
Americans tried to introduce a definition (one which had been elaborated by 
the disarmament conference of 1933) into the statute of the Nuremberg 
tribunal, and the Russians stubbornly opposed it. Ten years later it was the 
Russians who favored a definition of aggression in the United Nations and 
the Americans who had meanwhile become hostile to it. A definition of ag¬ 
gression seems to me impossible and, further, useless, whatever the character 
of the international system. By the term aggression, diplomats, jurists and 
mere citizens designate, more or less vaguely, an illegitimate use, direct or 
indirect, of force. Now relations among states have been and are such that 
it is not possible to find the general and abstract criteria in the light of which 
the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate use of force would be 
automatic and obvious. 

If all use of armed force, in every circumstance, is illegitimate, the threat 
of such use is no less so. But how can a threat be disclosed that has no need of 
being explicit in order to be effective? What rights should be granted to the 
state that is, and regards itself as being, threatened? It is true that the 
United Nations Charter forbids the threat as much as the use of force, but 

E 3 A detailed study of the attempts to define aggression in the League of Nations and 
the United Nations will be found in the work of M. Eugene Aroneanu, La definition 
de Vagression, Paris, 1958. 



such a formula is pure hypocrisy: lacking a tribunal capable of deciding dif¬ 
ferences equitably, all states have relied and continue to rely on themselves 
to obtain justice; none genuinely subscribes to the view that threats in the 
service of a just cause are, as such, culpable. 

Further, it would be an oversimplification to consider armed force and the 
direct use of this force alone. If we seek to elaborate an international penal 
code, we must define the delinquencies and the crimes that states are capable 
of committing outside the extreme crime of “the use of armed force.” The 
various means of constraint or of economic, psychological and political attack 
must also be condemned. But what procedures of “economic pressure” are 
culpable? Which propaganda is criminal, and which is tolerable? 

In short, in a homogeneous system, it is impossible to define aggression 
because the recourse to force (or to the threat of force) is intrinsically linked 
to the relations among states desiring to be independent. In a heterogeneous 
system, it is impossible to define aggression because the regimes in conflict 
assail each other continuously and commit, with good conscience, the crime 
of indirect or ideological aggression. 

Futile attempts have been made to overcome the first obstacle by defining, 
in general terms or by enumeration, the circumstances in which the recourse 
to force would be either legitimate or illegitimate. But this has merely ex¬ 
tended or multiplied the difficulties. If the use of force is legal in the case of 
legitimate defense, this latter concept requires definition. If we refer to the 
sequence of events, if the aggressor is the one who initiates the hostility, we 
are caught in the casuistry of attack and initiative. We do not always know 
who started the hostilities. The initiator is not always the disturber of the 
peace. The state in danger does not always have time to employ the proce¬ 
dures known as peaceful. 

Further, must the state that does not receive justice (according to its con¬ 
ception of justice) endure injustice indefinitely? The enumeration of the 
circumstances in which the recourse to force is not legitimate risks guarantee¬ 
ing the impunity of those who violate the law, encouraging international 
anarchy and finally provoking the very thing that it has attempted to prevent. 

In a heterogeneous system, only “armed aggression,” the crossing of fron¬ 
tiers by regular armies, is clearly identifiable. All forms of indirect aggression 
are common practice. It is ironic but not surprising that the Soviet representa¬ 
tives serving on the U.N. committees to define aggression have proposed the 
following formula: "Any state will be recognized as guilty of indirect ag¬ 
gression which: 

a) Encourages subversive activities directed against another state 
(acts of terrorism, sabotage, etc.); 

b) Foments civil war in another state; 

c) Favors an uprising in another state or political changes favor¬ 
able to the aggressor. ’HH 

[HI Aroneanu, op. cit., p. 292. 


I2 3 

Of course, in th° eyes of the Soviets, only the Atlantic bloc knows the 
“criminal” secrets of subversive war. 

In 1933 a committee known as the Politis Committee defined aggression 
by enumeration of cases. Four of these five cases were readily predictable®: 
“declaration of war against another state; invasion by armed forces, even with¬ 
out declaration of war, of the territory of another state; attack by land, naval 
or air forces, even without declaration of war, of the territory, ships or air¬ 
ships of another state; naval blockade of the coasts or ports of another state.” 
Providing that the side taking the initiative be regarded as the guilty one, all 
these cases are simple. But the fifth case assumes, today, a strange relevance. 
“Support given to armed groups which, formed on its territory, have invaded 
the territory of another state; or the refusal, despite the demand of the state 
invaded, to take, on its own territory, all the measures in its power to deprive 
the said groups of all aid or protection.” 

Let us consider only this last case: the organization or toleration of armed 
groups contradicts, in effect, the ancient customs of intercourse among states, 
but, supposing that a nation becomes guilty of such indirect aggression, what 
should the corresponding reaction be? Protests are ineffective, military inter¬ 
vention risks returning us to the simpleton’s equation: respect for interna¬ 
tional law equals war by sanctions. It is not certain that the French army 
would have pursued the groups of Algerian rebels into Tunisian and Moroc¬ 
can territory, even if the United Nations did not exist. 

The Politis definition added an enumeration of the circumstances that did 
not legitimize the military action of a foreign state: “The interior situation of 
a state, for instance its political, economic or social structure, the alleged 
defects of its administration, the disturbances resulting from strikes, revolu¬ 
tions, counterrevolutions or civil wars; the international conduct of a state, 
for instance a violation or the danger of violation of the rights or material or 
moral interests of a foreign state or its members, the rupture of diplomatic or 
economic relations, measures of economic or financial boycott, disputes rel¬ 
ative to economic or financial commitments or other commitments to foreign 
states, frontier incidents not referring to one of the cases of aggression indi¬ 
cated in the first article.” The prohibition against intervention in revolution 
or counterrevolution applies directly to the Soviet action in Hungary, as the 
prohibition against using force to defend material interests endangered by a 
foreign state precisely describes the Franco-British action against Egypt. This 
definition of aggression had been inserted in many pacts concluded by the 
Soviet Union, in particular those with the Baltic nations and FinlandM The 
latter were not saved thereby. The United Nations has finally abandoned 
defining aggression and prefers to utilize the other concepts included in the 
Charter: breaking the peace, the threat to peace or to international security, 
attack on the territorial integrity or the political independence of states. It 



limits the use of the term aggression to a single case, that of the crossing of 
a state’s frontiers by regular troops of another state without the former’s con¬ 
sent. Propaganda, agents of subversion, terrorist commandos pass across or 
through frontiers without being formally condemned by the international 
organizations or even by the interpreters of international law. 

Juridical formalism has yielded to the realities of the cold war. 

No juridical system has answered, even theoretically, two basic questions: 
how can any modification of the status quo be prevented from occurring as 
a result of a violation of law? Or again, to formulate the same question in 
different words, in the name of what criteria can an arbitrator or a tribunal 
dictate those peaceful changes without which any particular international 
law, based on the will of states, must be conservative? The rights and duties 
of states being, by hypothesis, precisely defined, how can the de facto organic 
groups be defined that deserve to be regarded as states? 

The League of Nations did not answer the first question. The United 
Nations is seeking an answer to the second, but the historical and juridical 
heterogeneity of the world system prohibits it from finding it. 

chapter V 

On Multipolar Systems and Bipolar Systems 

Foreign policy, in and of itself, is power politics. Therefore the concept of 
equilibrium—balance—applies to all international systems up to the Atomic 
Age Chut perhaps not including it). 

In the course of the preceding chapters we have distinguished forces— 
the various means of pressure or constraint which states possess—and power 
—the capacity of states, each taken as a unit, to influence the others. Thus 
we deliberately use the expressions power politics and balance of forces. The 
first means that states recognize neither arbitrator nor tribunal nor laws 
superior to their will and, consequently, owe their existence and their se¬ 
curity only to themselves or their allies. If I prefer “balance of forces” to 
“balance of power,” it is because forces are more measurable than power. But 
if forces are balanced, powers too are balanced, approximately. No state im¬ 
poses its sovereign will on others unless it possesses resources so decisive 
that its rivals admit in advance the futility of resistance. 

I. The Policy of Equilibrium 

It is in Hume’s brief essay entitled "On the Balance of Power” that the 
abstract theory of equilibrium is set forth with the most convincing simplic¬ 

David Hume takes as his point of departure this question: is the idea of 
equilibrium a modern one or is the formula alone of recent invention, the 
idea itself being as old as the world? The second term of the alternative is 
correct: “In all the politics of Greece, the anxiety with regard to the balance 
of power is apparent, and is expressly pointed out to us, even by the ancient 
historians. Thucydides represents the league which was formed against Ath¬ 
ens, and which produced the Peloponnesian War, as entirely owing to this 
principle. And after the decline of Athens, when the Thebans and Lace¬ 
daemonians disputed for sovereignty, we find that the Athenians (as well as 
many other republics) always threw themselves into the lighter scale, and 
endeavored to preserve the balance.” 



The Persian Empire behaved in the same way: “The Persian monarch 
was really, in his force, a petty prince, compared to the Grecian republics; 
and, therefore, it behooved him, from views of safety more than from emula¬ 
tion, to interest himself in their quarrels, and to support the weaker side in 
every contest.” Alexander’s successors followed the same principle: “They 
showed great jealousy of the balance of power; a jealousy founded on true 
politics and prudence, arid which preserved distinct for several ages the parti¬ 
tion made after the death of that famous conqueror.” The nations capable of 
intervening in the war belong to the system: “As the Eastern princes con¬ 
sidered the Greeks and Macedonians as the only real military force with 
whom they had any intercourse, they kept always a watchful eye over that 
part of the world.” 

If the ancients seem to have ignored the policy of equilibrium, the reason 
is the astonishing history of the Roman Empire. It is a fact that Rome was 
able to conquer her adversaries one after another, for they were unable to 
conclude in time the alliances which would have saved them. Philip of 
Macedon remained neutral until the time of Hannibal’s victories and then 
imprudently concluded with the conqueror an alliance “upon terms still 
more imprudent.” The Rhodean and Achaean republics, whose wisdom is 
celebrated by the historians of antiquity, offered assistance to the Romans in 
their wars against Philip and Antiochus. “Massinissa, Attalus, Prusias, in 
gratifying their private passions, were all of them instalments of the Roman 
greatness, and never seemed to have suspected that they were forging their 
own chains, while they advanced the conquests of their ally.” The only 
prince who, in the course of Roman history, seems to have understood the 
principle of equilibrium is Hiero, King of Syracuse: “Nor ought such a force 
ever to be thrown into one hand as to incapacitate the neighboring states 
from defending their rights against it.” Such is the more simple formula of 
equilibrium: a state should never possess such strength that neighboring 
states would be incapable of defending their rights against it. The formula, 
based as it is on “common sense and obvious reasoning,” is too simple to 
have escaped the ancients. 

By virtue of the same principle, Hume then analyzes the European system 
and the rivalry of France and England. “A new power succeeded, more 
formidable to the liberties of Europe, possessing all the advantages of the 
former, and laboring under none of its defects, except a share of that spirit 
of bigotry and persecution, with which the House of Austria was so long, 
and still is, so much infatuated.” Against the French monarchy, which had 
been victorious in four wars out of five but which had nonetheless not 
greatly enlarged its dominion nor acquired a “total ascendancy over Europe,” 
England was in the forefront. We cannot help being amused today by 
Hume’s criticism of English policy. Like the Greeks, he says, “we seem to 
have been more possessed with the ancient Greek spirit of jealous emulation 
than actuated by the prudent views of modem politics.” England has with- 


out profit continued wars begun justifiably and, perhaps more, out of neces¬ 
sity but which might have been concluded sooner under the same conditions. 
England’s hostility to France seems a certainty in any event, and the Allies 
count on the English forces as on their own and are quite uncompromising 
in their demands, England being obliged to assume the cost of hostilities. 
Finally, “we are such true combatants that, when once engaged, we lose all 
concern for ourselves and our posterity, and consider only how we may 
best annoy the enemy.” 

The excesses of belligerent ardor seem to Hume vexing because of the 
economic sacrifices they involve, but he regards them as particularly dan¬ 
gerous because they risk some day leading England to the opposite extreme: 
“rendering us totally careless and supine with regard to the fate of Europe. 
The Athenians, from the most bustling, intriguing, war-like people of 
Greece, finding their error in thrusting themselves into every quarrel, aban¬ 
don all attention to foreign affairs; and in no contest ever took part, except 
by their flatteries and complaisance to the victor.” 

David Hume favors the policy of equilibrium because he is opposed to 
huge empires: “Enormous monarchies are probably destructive to human na¬ 
ture in their progress, in their continuance, and even in their downfall, 
which never can be very distant from their establishment.” If the Roman 
Empire is cited as an objection, Hume answers that though the Roman 
Empire may have been of some advantage, this was because “mankind were 
generally in a very disorderly, uncivilized condition before its establishment.” 
The indefinite expansion of a monarchy—rod Hume means that of the Bour¬ 
bons—creates obstacles in and of itself—"thus human nature checks itself in 
its airy elevation.” We would scarcely simplify Hume’s thought by offering 
the antithesis of the •policy of equilibrium and that of universal monarchy. 
Since universal monarchy seems no less disastrous to Hume than to Montes¬ 
quieu, the state inevitably losing its virtues with the extension of its territory, 
the policy of equilibrium is rationally preferable in terms of historical ex¬ 
perience and moral values. 

The Roman decadence began, Montesquieu said, when the immensity of 
the Empire made the Republic impossible. Were the Bourbon monarchy to 
be unduly extended, the nobility would refuse to serve in remote places, 
in Hungary or in Lithuania, “forgot at court and sacrificed to the intrigue of 
every minion or mistress who approaches the Prince.” The king would have 
to call in mercenaries “and the melancholy fate of the Roman emperors, 
from the same cause, is renewed over and over again, till the final dissolu¬ 
tion of the monarchy.” 

The policy of equilibrium obeys a rule of common sense; it issues from 
the prudence necessary to the states concerned to preserve their indepen¬ 
dence and not be at the mercy of another state possessing irresistible strength. 
It seems blameworthy to those statesmen or doctrinaires who regard the 
clandestine or overt use of force, sometimes leading to violence, as the mark 



and expression of human wickedness. Yet such censors should devise a 
juridical or spiritual substitute for the equilibrium of autonomous wills. The 
same policy of equilibrium will be considered moral, or at least historically 
justified, by those who fear a universal monarchy and desire the survival 
of independent states. It will be judged if not immoral, at least anarchic, by 
those, on the contrary, who, in a given space, at a given time, prefer the 
unity of an empire to the maintenance of multiple sovereignties. The un¬ 
prejudiced observer will decide, according to circumstances, in favor of 
equilibrium or empire, since it is not likely that the optimum dimension of 
the state territory (optimum for whom? for what?) will be the same at all 

The policy of equilibrium, on the highest level of abstraction, is reduced 
to maneuvering in order to prevent a state from accumulating forces superior 
to those of its allied rivals. Every state, if it wishes to safeguard the equilib¬ 
rium, will take a position against the state or the coalition that seems 
capable of achieving such a superiority. This general rule is valid for all 
international systems. But if we seek to elaborate the rules of the policy of 
equilibrium, we must construct models of systems, according to the configura¬ 
tion of the relation of forces. 

The two most typical models are the ones I have called multipolaid] and 
bipolar: either the chief actors, whose forces are not too unequal, are rela¬ 
tively numerous; or, on the contrary, two actors dominate their rivals to such 
a degree that both become the center of a coalition and the secondary 
actors are obliged to situate themselves in relation to the two "blocs,” thus 
joining one or another, unless they have the opportunity to abstain. In¬ 
termediary models are possible, depending on the number of chief actors and 
the degree of equality or inequality of forces among the chief actors. 

2. The Policy of Multipolar Equilibrium 

Let us posit an international system defined by the plurality of rival 
states, whose resources, without being equal, do not create a disparity in 
nature—taking, for instance, France, Germany, Russia, England, Austria, 
Hungary, Italy in 1910. If these states wish to maintain the equilibrium, 
they must apply certain rules which stem from the rejection of a universal 

The enemy being, by definition, that state which ventures to dominate 
the others, the victor in a war (the side which has gained the most ad¬ 
vantages) immediately becomes suspect to its former allies. In other words, 
alliances and enmities are, in essence, temporary, since they are determined 
by the relation of forces. By the same token, the state whose forces are 
increasing must anticipate the dissidence of certain of its allies, who will 
rejoin the other camp in order to maintain the balance. Anticipating such 

[UAuthors generally attach the phrase balance of power to the systems I call multipolar. 



defense reactions, the state whose power is in the ascendant will be wise 
to limit its ambitions, if it does not aspire to hegemony or empire. If it 
does aspire to hegemony, it must be prepared, as disruptive force of the 
system, to face the hostility of all the conservative states. 

May we look beyond these generalizations, which are also commonplaces, 
and enumerate the rules the actors must rationally observe in a multipolar 
system (again, we are concerned with a hypothetical rationality, based on 
the postulate that the actors desire to maintain the system}? An American 
author, Morton A. KaplanpDhas formulated the six rules both necessary and 
sufficient for the functioning of a schematic system which he calls the bal¬ 
ance of power and which, it seems to me, corresponds to the one that 
concerns us. 

These six rules are as follows: 1. each actor must act in such a way as 
to increase his capabilities, but must prefer negotiation to combat; 2. each 
must fight rather than miss an opportunity to increase his capabilities; 
3. each must cease fighting rather than eliminate a “principal national 
actor’ll] 4. each must act so as to oppose any coalition or individual actor 
tending to assume a position of predominance in relation to the rest of 
the system; 5. each must act so as to constrain the actors subscribing to a 
supranational principle of organization; 6. each must permit the national 
actors, whether beaten or constrained, to return to the system as acceptable 
partners, or must bring a previously non-essential actor into the essential 
category. All the essential actors must be dealt with as acceptable partners. 

Of these six rules, we may immediately detach the fourth, which is the 
simple expression of the principle of equilibrium, a principle valid for all 
international systems and already defined in Hume’s essay. Not one of the 
other rules, interpreted literally, is of obvious application, generally speaking. 

The first—which enjoins all the actors to increase their capacities (re¬ 
sources, means, forces) to the maximum—is valid for any system defined by 
the struggle of each against all. Since each state relies upon itself alone, 
any increase in resources is welcome as such, provided it leaves all other 
things equal. Now it is rare for a state to increase its resources without 
modifying either the resources or the attitude of its allies or rivals. That 
negotiation is preferable to combat may be considered a postulate of rational 
policy, comparable to that of the least effort for a given economic yield (in 
production or income). However, this postulate requires that the actors 
disregard their pride or glory. 

The rule of fighting rather than missing an opportunity of increasing 
capabilities is neither rational nor reasonable. Of course, in the abstract, all 
other things being equal, any actor on the international stage seeks maxi- 

IZjSystem and Process in International Politics, New York, 1957, pp. 23 ff. 

■"-The principal national actor, in such a system, is what in ordinary terms we call a 
“Great Power” or a state possessing forces great enough to constitute one of the 
essential elements of the system of equilibrium. 

* 3 ° 


mum capabilities. But if we attempt to determine in what circumstances it 
is rational for a state to fight, we shall he reduced to virtually meaningless 
formulas of the following type: the state must take the initiative in combat 
if the advantages it anticipates from victory are to exceed the probable cost 
of the struggle, the gap between advantage and cost widening with the 
risk of non-victory or defeat. Whatever the specific formula achieved, the 
possibility of increasing capabilities is not enough to justify recourse to 

The classical authors had acknowledged only the threat of hegemony 
brought about by the growth of a rival as a reasonable and legitimate 
motive for taking the initiative in hostilities. It is not immoral, but it is 
imprudent to contemplate passively the rise of a state toward a superiority 
so great that its neighbors would be at its mercy. 

Rules three and six tend to contradict each other or, at least, illustrate 
the various outcomes possible. In a system of multipolar equilibrium, the 
wise statesman hesitates to eliminate one of the principal actors. He does 
not proceed to the extremes of victory if he fears that, by continuing the 
combat, he will destroy a temporary enemy necessary to the system’s equilib¬ 
rium. But if the elimination of one of the principal actors involves, di¬ 
rectly or indirectly, the entrance on stage of an actor of equivalent stature, 
he will consider whether the old actor or the new is the more favorable 
to his own interests. 

Rule five is equivalent to the following principle: any state which, in a 
given system, follows a supranational ideology or acts according to a supra¬ 
national conception is, as such, an enemy. This principle is not strictly 
implied by the ideal model of a multipolar equilibrium. Of course, so long 
as this kind of equilibrium is expressed normally in a rivalry of states, 
each exclusively concerned with its own interests, the state that recruits 
partisans beyond its borders because it claims a universal doctrine, thereby 
becomes a threat to the others. But we cannot draw the conclusion from 
the inevitable hostility between national states and the state appealing to 
a transnational idea that the former must make war on the latter: it all de¬ 
pends on the relation of forces and on the probability of reducing the 
attractiveness of the transnational idea by arms. 

Again more generally, all these rules presuppose implicitly that the safe¬ 
guarding of equilibrium and of the system is the sole object or at least the 
predominant concern of states. Yet nothing of the kind is so. The only 
state that, more or less consciously, has acted according to this hypothesis 
is England, which, indeed, had no other interest than safeguarding the 
system itself and weakening, in each period, the strongest state capable of 
aspiring to hegemony. None of the continental states was or could have 
been so disinterested in the modes of equilibrium, even if it did not aspire 
to domination. Possession of strategic points or provinces, the configuration 
of frontiers, distribution of resources, such were the stakes of the conflicts 


which the continental states desired to settle to their advantage. That they 
were prepared, if necessary in order to achieve their goals, to eliminate 
a principal actor was not an irrational step, as long as there remained 
enough actors to reconstitute another system. The elimination of Germany 
as a principal actor, as a result of division, was not irrational on the part 
of French policy, which thereby reinforced its own position without dan¬ 
gerously reducing the number of chief actors. 

The purely national policy of European states covers only a brief period 
between the wars of religion and the wars of revolution. The termination 
of the wars of religion was not due to the outlawing or the irremediable 
defeat of states appealing to a transnational idea, but to the proclamation 
of the primacy of the state over the individual; the state determining the 
church to which individuals would have to belong, if not in which they 
would have to believe, tolerating dissidents only on condition that the lat- 
ters’ religious choice appeared to be a strictly private matter. The European 
peace of the seventeenth century was obtained by a complex diplomacy 
which re-established the equilibrium of states and prevented the disputes of 
churches or the beliefs of the governed to put this equilibrium to the test. 
The sovereigns had abandoned the strategy of “ideological war” to return 
to that of “Holy Alliance”: any rebellion against an established power, 
grievous in itself, was condemned even by those governing rival states. 
The stability of the powers was given precedence over the weakening by 
dissidence or rebellion of a state that was a potential enemy. 

Perhaps the author whose theses we are discussing would subscribe to the 
preceding remarks. The six rules he formulates would be those which per¬ 
fectly rational actors would follow in an ideal typical multipolar (balance-of- 
power) system. Even granting that these rules are valid for an ideal type, I 
cannot accept them. The conduct of the -pure diplomat cannot and must 
not be held as determined by reference to equilibrium alone, which itself is 
defined by the rejection of universal monarchy and by the plurality of 
principal actors. The behavior of economic subjects is determined in a 
typical ideal market because each member seeks to maximize his interests 
or his profit. The behavior of diplomatic subjects, in a system of multipolar 
equilibrium, has no unequivocal objective: all other things being equal, 
each subject hopes for the maximum resources, but if the increase of 
resources requires a battle or provokes the reversal of alliances, he will 
hesitate to take risks. The maintenance of a given system has as its condition 
the safeguarding of the principal actors, but each of the latter is not 
rationally obliged to set the maintenance of the system above any of its own 
interests. To suppose implicitly that states have as their objective the safe¬ 
guarding or functioning of the system is to return, by a devious route, to 
the error of certain theoreticians of power politics: to confuse the calcula¬ 
tion of means or the context of the decision with the goal itself. 

It is possible neither to predict diplomatic events from the analysis of a 

132 - 


typical system nor to dictate a line of conduct to princes as a result of the 
type of system. The model of multipolar equilibrium helps us to understand 
the systems that have occurred in history, and the rules which we have 
borrowed from the American author suggest the circumstances favorable 
to the duration of such a system. 

Strictly “national” states regard themselves as rivals, not mortal enemies; 
the leaders do not regard themselves as personally threatened by those of the 
neighboring states; each state is a possible ally for every other, today's 
enemy is spared because he will he tomorrow’s partner and because he is 
indispensable to the system’s equilibrium. Diplomacy, in such a system, is 
realistic, sometimes even cynical, but it is moderate and reasonable. Hence, 
when the ravages of another kind of diplomacy became tragically evident, 
this disabused wisdom seemed retrospectively not only an ideal type but an 

The diplomacy called realist, which the system of multipolar equilibrium 
implies, does not conform to the highest requirements of the philosophers. 
The state which changes camp the day after victory awakens the bitterness 
and resentment of its allies, who may have accepted greater sacrifices than 
that state for the sake of their common victory. A pure diplomacy of 
equilibrium ignores and must ignore feelings; it has no friends or enemies 
as such, it does not regard the latter as worse than the former, it does not 
condemn war as such. It acknowledges the egoism or, if one prefers, the 
moral corruption (aspiration to power and glory) of states, but such calculat¬ 
ing corruption seems in the long run less unforeseeable, less formidable 
than passions, perhaps idealist but certainly blind. 

Until 1945 United States diplomacy was situated at the antipodes of 
this traditional and prudent immorality. The United States had preserved 
the memory of the two great wars of its history, that against the Indians, 
that of the Secession. In neither case was the enemy an accepted state 
with which, after hostilities were over, a peaceful coexistence would be 
resumed. Diplomatic relations, alliances and conflicts did not seem insepara¬ 
ble from the normal life-process of states: war was a repellent necessity, 
to which one was obliged to adapt, a duty of circumstances which had to 
be performed as well and as fast as possible, but it was not an episode of 
a sustained history. Thus American public opinion reflected little on the 
past and the future when the war had begun. The enemy was guilty 
and deserved punishment, was wicked and must be corrected. Afterward, 
peace would prevail. 

Obliged, in its turn, after 1945, to reverse alliances, America was tempted, 
following General MacArthur’s example, to proclaim that it had assigned 
roles and merits badly, China having somehow shifted to the ’wrong side 
and Japan, simultaneously, to the right side of the barricade. If the enemy 
is always the incarnation of evil and if reversals of alliances are sometimes 
inevitable, we must conclude that good and evil change their incarnation. 


According to Machiavelli, virtii shifted in the course of history from one 
people to another. According to a moralizing diplomacy, it is virtue, quite 
different from Machiavelli’s virtii, which affects such migrations. 

Hateful or admirable, baneful or precious, the diplomacy of equilibrium 
does not result from a deliberate choice on the part of statesmen—it results 
from circumstances. 

The geographical scene, the organization of states and military technique 
must prevent the concentration of power in one or two states. That there 
are several states possessing comparable resources is the structural character¬ 
istic of the multipolar system. In Greece as in Europe, the geographical 
scene was not hostile to the independence of cities and kingdoms. As long 
as the political unit was the city-state, the multiplicity of centers of 
autonomous decision was the necessary result. To quote Plume, “if we 
consider, indeed, the small number of inhabitants in any one Republic 
compared to the whole, the great difficulty of forming sieges in those times, 
and the extraordinary bravery and discipline of every free man among the 
noble people,” we shall conclude that equilibrium was relatively easy to 
maintain and empire difficult to impose. In Europe since the end of the 
diffused sovereignty of the Middle Ages, first Great Britain, then Russia 
constituted insurmountable obstacles in the path of universal monarchy. 
The principle of state legitimacy, whether dynastic or national, did not 
justify unlimited ambitions. European armies, between the sixteenth and 
twentieth centuries, were not equipped for vast conquests: Napoleon’s sol¬ 
diers advanced on foot from the frontier to Moscow. With distance, they 
were weakened still more quickly than Alexander’s soldiers. 

The concern for equilibrium inspires diplomacy in proportion as men— 
both governing and governed—cling to the independence of their political 
unit. The Greek citizens did not separate their own freedom from that of 
their city-state. Together, they had defended the civilization of free men 
against the Persian Empire, which they regarded as founded on the despotism 
of a single man. Against each other, they defended the autonomy of city- 
states. The first French monarchy ardently desired total independence, pas¬ 
sionately refused any submission to empire. Peoples have desired inde¬ 
pendence of which the national state was the expression. This desire for 
state independence, for absolute sovereignty, checks the tendency to ideologi¬ 
cal diplomacy, maintaining a kind of inter-state homogeneity despite the 
conflicts of faith or ideas. It helps to “internalize” the rules of equilibrium 
that cease to appear as counsels of prudence, becoming moral or traditional 
imperatives. Safeguarding equilibrium is acknowledged as a common duty 
of statesmen. The European concert is transformed into an organ of arbitra¬ 
tion, of common deliberation, even of collective decision. 

Yet changes in the relation of forces must not be too rapid. Whether 
the people be passive or indifferent, it is better that reversals of alliances 
not occur from one day to the next. Whatever the intelligence of statesmen, 



it is better that the shifts of resources not be such that yesterday’s calcula¬ 
tions are radically false today. The system functions better with known 
actors and a more or less stabilized relation of forces. None of these condi¬ 
tions, taken in isolation, suffices to guarantee the survival of the multipolar 
system. The desire for independence will ultimately be swept away by 
violent transnational passions. The concern for the common system will not 
resist extreme heterogeneity. All the actors are no longer acceptable partners 
for each other if the peoples are separated by memories that they refuse to 
forget or by the suffering of open wounds. (After 1871 France could not 
have allied herself with Germany even if the calculation of equilibrium 
had made such an alliance rational.) 

Before 1914 the growth of the Reich and the irreducible opposition be¬ 
tween France and Germany had contributed to the transformation of the 
system: alliances tended to become permanent, to crystallize in “blocs.” Be¬ 
tween the two wars the transnational ideologies of communism, then of 
fascism, had made the system so heterogeneous that awareness of a common 
interest in its maintenance had entirely disappeared: partisan hostilities, in¬ 
ternal to states, cut through and aggravated inter-state hostilities. The mili¬ 
tary revolution, a result of the internal-combustion engine, seemed to clear 
the path for great conquests. At this point theoreticians began to dream 
nostalgically of the diplomacy of Richelieu, of Mazarin, of Talleyrand. 

The system of multipolar equilibrium, as it functioned at the end of the 
nineteenth century, is a historical compromise between the state of nature 
and the rule of law: the state of nature, because the enemy remains the 
strongest insofar as he is the strongest, because each actor is the sole judge, 
in the last analysis, of his behavior and retains the right of choosing be¬ 
tween peace and war. But this state of nature is no longer the struggle of 
each against all, without rules and without limits. States recognize each 
other’s right to existence; they desire, and know they desire, to preserve 
equilibrium and even a certain solidarity in confronting the outside world. 
The Greek city-states were not unaware of their profound kinship and at 
the same time of the “foreignness” of the barbariansCOTo Asian eyes, rather 
than being rivals, the European conquerors gave the impression of being 
united in a single “aggressive” bloc. 

This intermediary solution between the state of nature and the rule of 
law (or again, between the jungle and universal monarchy) is, in essence, 

0 Cf. Vattel, op. cit., Book III, Chap. 3, paragraph 47. “Europe comprises a political 
system, a body in which everything is linked by the relations and the various interests 
of the nations which inhabit this part of the world. It is no longer a jumble of 
isolated parts each of which considered itself unaffected by the fate of the others, and 
rarely bothered about what did not immediately concern it. The continual attention 
of sovereigns to everything that happens, ministers in permanent residence and perpetual 
invitations make modem Europe a kind of republic whose independent members, linked 
by common interests, gather in order to maintain its order and freedom.” 



precarious. In theory it leaves the sovereigns free to attack if attack seems 
indispensable to prevent the rise of a dreaded rival. Equilibrium is the im¬ 
perative of prudence rather than the common good of the system: yet if the 
war to weaken the strong is waged frequently, the system becomes sterile, 
costly and detested. The risk grows greater as it becomes more difficult to 
distinguish between “weakening the strong” and “humiliating the proud.” 
Was it out of a desire for security or the pride of dominance that the 
Greek city-states fought each other so often? Was it concern for security or 
the love of glory which inspired the diplomacy of Louis XIV? There was 
a time when the diplomacy of cabinets, to which the realist theoreticians 
show such indulgence today, was harshly judged because the historians 
blamed the kings and their belligerent dealings for the wars described, 
whether rightly or wrongly, as wars of prestige. The system of European 
equilibrium has perhaps limited the violence of wars (at certain periods); 
it has never reduced their frequency. 

A precarious compromise, the system perpetually tends to overstep its 
bounds, either toward a return to the jungle, or in the direction of a 
“universal empire” or a “juridical order.” The double awareness of a common 
civilization and of a permanent rivalry is, in essence, contradictory. If the 
sense of rivalry prevails, war becomes inexpiable and civilized diplomacy is 
eclipsed. If the sense of the community of culture prevails, the temptation 
of state unification or of organized peace becomes irresistible. Why did the 
Greeks, instead of exhausting their military force against each other, not 
combine to bring down the Persian Empire? Why did the Europeans not 
choose to rule Africa or Asia together instead of ruining themselves in 
fratricidal combat? 

Let us note: these questions, historically, were raised after the fact. Philip, 
Alexander and their spokesmen have contrasted the city-states’ loss of 
autonomy with the greatness which a united Greece was capable of achiev¬ 
ing. It was Valery, after 1918, who observed that the goal of European 
policy seemed to be to entrust the government of the Old World to an 
American committee. Indeed, Europeans have always reserved the major 
part of their forces for the wars they waged against each other. If the French 
sent great armies overseas, it was when they vainly disputed the last shreds 
of their possessions with rising nationalist forces; it was when they were 
losing, not building, their empire. 

Further, it is understandable that this so-called folly be judged as such 
only after the fact. States fear their rivals, peoples their neighbors, each 
desiring to dominate those close by rather than aspiring to reign over dis¬ 
tant lands and alien populations. The immense empires of Spain and 
England, whether attributed to the spirit of adventure or of lucre, to the 
lust or gold or for power, have had as their condition the exceptional mili¬ 
tary superiority of the conquerors. When such a superiority is not a condi¬ 
tion, the wars are most frequently waged within the same sphere of civili- 



zation. The Chinese or the Japanese, like the Europeans, have in general 
fought among themselves. 

It is perhaps human but it is futile to cultivate the nostalgia for the 
amoral and measured diplomacy of equilibrium. Such nostalgia is, in es¬ 
sence, retrospective. Those who regret the days when diplomats were in¬ 
different to ideas are nevertheless living in a heterogeneous system and an 
age of ideological conflicts. Those who admire the subtle combination of 
national egoism and respect for equilibrium are contemporaries of the in¬ 
expiable struggles between candidates for empire, between faiths both 
temporal and spiritual, inseparable from the states in conflict. Those who 
marvel at the subtle combinations permitted by the plurality of actors are now 
observing a diplomatic field occupied by rigid blocs. 

Men, including statesmen, are not free to determine the distribution of 
forces, the neutral or ideological character of diplomacy. It is wiser to un¬ 
derstand the diversity of worlds than to dream of a world which no longer 
exists because one does not love the world that does. 

3. The Policy of Bipolar Equilibrium 

I call bipolar the configuration of the relation of forces in which the 
majority of political units are grouped around those two among them 
whose strength outclasses that of the others. The distinction between the 
multipolar and the bipolar configuration is evident to the observer because 
of the consequences, some logical, others historical, which each of these 
configurations involves. 

Whatever the configuration, the most general law of equilibrium applies: 
the goal of the chief actors is to avoid finding themselves at the mercy of a 
rival. But since the two great powers call the tune, and since the lesser 
powers, even by uniting, cannot outweigh one of the great powers, the 
principle of equilibrium applies to relations among the coalitions, each 
formed around one of the two influential powers. Each coalition has as its 
supreme objective prevention of the other from acquiring means superior 
to its own. 

In such a system we distinguish three kinds of actors (and not only 
“small” and "great”): the two leaders of the coalitions, the states obliged 
to take part and lend allegiance to one or the other of the leaders, and 
lastly the states which can and desire to remain outside the conflict. These 
three kinds of actors behave according to different rules. 

The leaders of the coalition must simultaneously be on guard to prevent 
the growth of the other great power or coalition and to maintain the 
cohesion of their own coalition. The two tasks are related to one another 
in many ways. If an ally changes sides or shifts from commitment to 
neutrality, the relation of forces is modified. On the most abstract level, 
the means the leader uses to maintain the coherence of its own coalition 
fall into two categories, some tending to protect, others tending to punish: 


the former assure advantages to allies, the latter hold the threat of sanctions 
over dissidents or traitors. The rational use of these means depends on 
many circumstances: to the state which fears the other coalition, the great 
power gives the guarantee of assistance, that is, of security; to the state 
which has nothing to fear, it offers financial advantages; it tries to terrify the 
state which cannot be seduced or convinced. 

Thucydides wondered to what degree Athens was responsible for the 
dissolution of the alliance it led and which did not resist defeat. The 
league, theoretically composed of city-states equal in rights, had become a 
kind of empire, directed by a heavy-handed master who required the pay¬ 
ment of tribute. The Greek historian suggests that the strongest always 
tends to abuse his strength. Even without invoking this motive of eternal 
psychology, today’s historian can draw other interpretations from Thucyd¬ 
ides’ narrative. A league of "insular powers” does not spontaneously keep 
its cohesion once the external danger is past. A league of equal city-states 
should have been entirely peaceful and sought no other goal than the 
security and freedom of its members. By taking the path of imperialism, 
Athens condemned itself to brutality. The servitudes of power are in¬ 

The political units which, by vocation or necessity, rally around one or 
other of the two camps, also act as a consequence of two considerations: 
to a degree, the interest of the coalition is their own interest, yet the in¬ 
terest of the coalition does not exactly coincide with their own interest. 
Let us consider the alliances within the multipolar system: each of the 
chief actors, temporarily associated, is alarmed by the growth of its chief 
ally (or of its chief allies) even when the enemy (or the enemies) is not 
(or is not yet) conquered. The benefits of a common victory are never 
equitably distributed: the weight of a state is a function of the strength 
it possesses at the time of negotiations more than of the merits it has 
acquired during the hostilities (this “realistic” proposition scandalized France 
when the British and Americans suggested it in 1918). The rivalry among 
allies has not the same character in a bipolar system. The more distinct 
this configuration is, the more the two great powers prevail over their 
partners and the more the alliances tend to become permanent. As a member 
of a permanent alliance, opposed to another equally permanent alliance, 
the secondary state has a major interest in the security or in the victory 
of the whole of which it is a parfS it resigns itself more easily to the 
growth of its rival-partners. Yet Thucydides’ narrative shows over and over 
that Athens was feared by her allies. The secondary states would feel quite 
at one with their “bloc” (its success is my success) if the fate of each, 
within the alliance, was not affected by the relative forces of the partners; 
if the leader were purely a protector or an arbitrator: a borderline case, to 
say the least. 

Hkf it is a part voluntarily. 



The world being what it is, each political unit tries to influence the 
policy of the alliance in the direction of its own interests or to reserve the 
greatest possible amount of its forces for enterprises which directly concern 
it. In 1959 what the French diplomats understood by the common policy 
of the Atlantic bloc was Anglo-American support of the pacification of 
Algeria, a task to which France was dedicating the majority of its army, 
gradually reducing its contribution to the NATO shield. The difficulties 
of a diplomacy or a strategy of coalition, though somewhat attenuated within 
permanent coalitions, cemented by a common ideology or an external threat, 
still remain fundamentally the same: the various ways of maneuvering, 
of fighting, of conquering do not benefit the partners equally. Even if 
the latter were in agreement as to the estimate of risks and opportunities— 
which is never the case, given the uncertainty of these estimates—they 
would have rational motives for controversy, for the possible diplomatic or 
strategic methods largely involve, even for sincere allies, an unequal dis¬ 
tribution of immediate sacrifices and eventual gains. 

As for the non-engaged, they consist primarily of those political units 
external to the system which most often have no reason to side with one 
coalition or the other and which may even have advantages to gain from a 
generalized warfare weakening both groups of belligerents. The state ex¬ 
ternal to the system is, in both cases, induced by calculation to intervene: 
either if it expects the victory of one of the two camps to afford it ad¬ 
vantages superior to the cost of the aid necessary to insure that victory; or 
if it fears the victory of one of the two camps because that victory seems 
likely if it were to remain passive. This latter case illuminates a possible 
motive of American intervention in 1917 (which does not imply that this 
intervention had no other causes). Perhaps the Persian intervention at the 
end of the Peloponnesian War can be classified under the same heading. 

As to the choice of states situated within the system—taking sides or 
remaining neutral—it chiefly depends, assuming each desire neutrality, on 
the security to be derived from isolation. The small state’s geographical 
situation and actual resources are the two decisive factors: it is no accident 
that in 1949, when the Atlantic Pact was signed, Switzerland and Sweden, 
which did not join it, had the two strongest armies on the Continent west 
of the Iron Curtain. On the other hand, as Thibaudet writes, commenting 
on Thucydides, a maritime power cannot allow the neutrality of a single 

The multipolar and bipolar configurations are as radically opposed as 
they are pure types. At one extreme, each principal actor is the enemy 
and the possible partner of all the rest. At the other, there are only two 
principal actors, enemies by position if not by ideology. In the first case 
alliances are temporary, in the second they are lasting; in the first case 
the allies do not recognize any leader, in the second all the political 
units, save the two leaders, are subject to the will of the latter. In the 


first case several units remain outside the alliance, in the second all units 
are willy-nilly obliged to lend their allegiance to one or the other of the 
leaders, to aggregate themselves into one or the other of the blocs. 

Intermediate conditions are obviously conceivable and even more often 
real than the pure types. Even within a homogeneous multipolar system, an 
actor can rarely ally himself with or oppose just any actor; the stakes (the fate 
of a province, the contour of a frontier) and popular passions may forbid a 
reconciliation which a rational calculation would not exclude. Even in a 
system with many chief actors, one or two of the latter are more im¬ 
portant than the rest. If generalized warfare breaks out between two coali¬ 
tions, each is more influenced by one of the actors than by the other. In 
other words, if generalized warfare breaks out, a multipolar configuration 
tends of itself to approach a bipolar configuration. This is why Thibaudet 
and Toynbee immediately compared the First World War to the Pelopon¬ 
nesian War, although the pre-1914 European system was still multipolar: 
the comparison involved the generalization of a conflict, gradually embrac¬ 
ing all the units in the system and confronting a league directed by the 
insular power with a league grouped around the continental power, Athens 
and England, Sparta and Germany. Since then, commentators have alluded 
to Thucydides to emphasize the bipolar configuration, because the world 
after 1945 presents such a configuration. But obviously the Greek system 
differs by nature from the present system, just as the superiority of Athens 
and Sparta over the other cities was not of the same genre as the superiority 
of the two giants today. 

Thus it is not a question of formulating laws according to which a 
bipolar system would function or develop. The geometry of diplomatic rela¬ 
tions is comparable to the battle plans drawn up by the German strategists 
(a double flank encirclement: the battle of Cannes; the collapse of one 
flank: the battle of Leuthen, etc.). The diplomatic configurations, like the 
battle plans, are few in number, because the modes of distribution of 
forces within a system or the movements of armies involve only a few 
typical models. The theory of models, however, permits neither the stra¬ 
tegist to know in advance the maneuver he should perform, nor the his¬ 
torian to foresee what a given system, whether multipolar or bipolar, will 

At best we may note several structural characteristics of a bipolar system. 
Such a system may not, as such, be more unstable or more belligerent than 
a multipolar system, but it is more seriously threatened by a generalized 
and inexorable war. Indeed, if all the political units belong to one camp 
or the other, any kind of local conflict concerns the whole of the system. 
The balance between the two camps is affected by the behavior of many 
small units. Lacking a "third man,” whether arbitrator or contributor, the 
two great powers are perpetually in conflict, directly or through intermedi¬ 
aries. In order to reach an understanding, they would have to trace a 



demarcation line, distribute zones of influence, forbid dissidence: the client 
of one would not have the right to shift to the camp of the other, and 
each would be obliged to desist from inciting the other’s allies to dissidence. 
More or less precise rules of this nature seem to have existed in Greece 
during the period which preceded the Peloponnesian War. It was difficult 
for the two ruling city-states to respect these rules, still more difficult to 
impose respect for them upon their respective allies. 

In such a system, indeed, it is the fate of the satellites which is both 
the occasion and the stake of the conflicts between the great powers. Yet, 
depending on the rigidity or the flexibility of the coalitions, responsibility 
for the conflicts rests principally upon the satellites or principally upon 
the leaders. In the Greece Thucydides describes, the supremacy of Athens 
at sea and of Sparta on land was not overwhelming. The fleets of Corcyra 
or of Corinth were enough to modify the relation of forces. The great 
powers did not exert a sovereign command upon their allies, and the latter 
could, in their own interests, involve their leaders in a struggle to the 

Lastly, this system which, by the absence of the "third man,” makes a 
generalized war more likely, also makes it almost inevitable that a gen¬ 
eralized war becomes ideological. To avoid fighting, the great powers must 
prohibit shifts of allegiance. Once they have begun fighting, how could 
they forego provoking dissidence? The two great powers rarely have the 
same institutions, particularly when the respective bases of their military 
forces are not the same. Within the units, factions are formed, some favor¬ 
ing peace, others war, some championing one of the leaders, others another. 
The preferences for one kind of institution or another govern such as¬ 
sumptions of position, at least in part. All the units are increasingly divided 
between advocates of one or the other coalition, each coalition exploiting 
these internal quarrels in order to weaken the enemy units. 

The peace of a system having a bipolar configuration requires the stabili¬ 
zation of state clienteles by agreement of state leaders, hence the ban on 
recruiting partisan clients within states. This ban is dropped once the 
death-struggle is launched. But peace is warlike or war is cold when this 
ban does not exist before the death-struggle is launched. 

4. The Bipolar System of the Greek City-States 

The formal analysis we have just conducted does not afford us a means of 
forecasting but a kind of outline. Given a bipolar configuration, the 
historian or the sociologist must traverse these stages if he wishes to gain an 
understanding of events: 1. Which of the coalitions are in conflict? What 
degree of rigidity does each exhibit? What are the instruments of power 
wielded by each of the leader-states? What is the degree of superiority of 
each of the leader-states over its partners, whether allies or satellites? 2. If 
the system has provoked a death-struggle, what were the occasions or causes 


of the explosion? 3. How does the conflict occur, before or during the 
death-struggle, between the two coalitions, between the leading states, be¬ 
tween them and their respective allies? In other words, we must understand 
the nature and structure of each of the coalitions, the occasions and basic 
reasons for their opposition, and finally the style and modes of their combat. 

The first book of The Peloponnesian War provides an admirable applica¬ 
tion of these principles. From it we shall borrow an illustration of these 
requirements of analysis: “In the face of this great danger, the command of 
the confederate Hellenes was assumed by the Lacedaemonians in virtue of 
their superior power; and the Athenians having made up their minds to 
abandon their city, broke up their homes, threw themselves into their ships, 
and became a naval people. This coalition, after repulsing the barbarian, 
soon afterward split into two sections, which included the Hellenes who 
had revolted from the king, as well as those who had aided him in the 
war. At the head of one stood Athens, at the head of the other Lacedaemon, 
one the first naval, the other the first military power in Hellas. For a short 
time the league held together, till the Lacedaemonians and Athenians quar¬ 
reled, and made war upon each other with their allies, a duel into which 
all the Hellenes sooner or later were drawn, though some might at first 
remain neutral. . . . The policy of Lacedaemon was not to exact tribute 
from her allies, but merely to secure their subservience to her interests by 
establishing oligarchies among them; Athens, on the contrary, had by de¬ 
grees deprived hers of their ships, and imposed instead contributions in 
money on all except Chios and Lesbos.’® Two city-states dominate the 
others, each with a typical element of military force; all the other city- 
states group around them. The domination of Athens is financial (the 
allies pay tribute) and maritime (the ships of the allies are “integrated” 
into the Athenian fleet). The Spartan alliance was founded on the 
oligarchic character of the regime of the city-states which took her side 
and also, as Thucydides often says, on the concern of the city-states to 
preserve their liberties, which the power of Athens endangered. 

The case of Corcyra furnishes an example of how the leading states do 
not respect the treaty which they have concluded in order to avoid war, an 
example whose significance is apparent as soon as we employ modem con¬ 
cepts. Corcyra and Corinth (the first the colony of the second) began a 
dispute concerning Epidaurus, claimed by each as a colony. Corcyra was 
an “uncommitted” city-state, a fact on which both sides, in their contra¬ 
dictory arguments, agree. Why did Corcyra keep out of the pact? Accord¬ 
ing to the Corinthians, because “their geographical situation makes them 
independent of others” (I, 37); according to Corcyrans seeking the aid of 
Athens, because Corcyra once believed "in the wise precaution of refusing 
to involve ourselves in alliances with other powers, lest we should also 

0 Book I, 18. Crawley translation. 



involve ourselves in rislcs of their choosing dangers of a foreign alliance 
according to the will of our neighbor” (I, 32) only to discover, at the 
eleventh hour, that this isolation was “folly and weakness.” The extension 
and imbrication of alliances made it increasingly difficult for political units 
of any importance not to ally themselves with one or tire other of the 
great powers. 

Is it consonant with the treaty linking Athens and Sparta in the interest 
of peace that an uncommitted unit should join one of the two camps? Is 
the shift from neutrality to alliance contradictory to the pact or not? Ac¬ 
cording to all the orators, the pact forbids defections, the unit that be¬ 
longs to a coalition must not leave it. The Corinthian advocates say as 
much to the Athenians: “Do not lay down the principle that defection is 
to be patronized” (I, 40). If one camp receives the defectors of the other, 
the adverse camp will do the same. “If you make it your policy to receive 
and assist all offenders, you will find that just as many of your dependencies 
will come over to us, and the principle that you establish will press less 
heavily on us than on yourselves” (I, 40). The supreme principle is “that 
every power has a right to punish her own allies” (I, 43)). 

The case of Corcyra, seeking the assistance of Athens, was difficult. 
Formally Corcyra, having been uncommitted, did not fall under the in¬ 
fluence of the ban on receiving defectors. The Corinthians admitted as 
much: according to the provisions of the treaty “it shall be competent 
for any state, whose name was not down on the list, to join whichever 
side it pleases” (I, 40). But the spirit of the treaty excludes, the Corin¬ 
thians say, those allegiances which in themselves constitute an aggression 
with regard to the other camp. “But this agreement is not meant for those 
whose object in joining is the injury of other powers, but for those whose 
need of support does not arise from the fact of defection, and whose 
adhesion will not bring to the power that is mad enough to receive them 
war instead of peace” (I, 40). In modern terms, the treaty involves two 
ambiguities: its function was to avoid a rupture of the equilibrium of 
forces, yet the allegiance of certain uncommitted parties, which is not 
explicitly forbidden, risks provoking this rupture. On the other hand, the 
uncommitted parties, which retain the right to choose their allegiance, 
cannot all call upon the treaty as their authority. If Corcyra, which 
turns against Corinth (whose colony she has been) became the ally of 
Athens, this commitment would be, in fact and in spirit, an aggression 
against Corinth and therefore against Sparta. The Athenians are thus aware 
of the scope of their action when they conclude a simple defensive al¬ 
liance with Corcyra, involving reciprocal aid in case of attack against 
Corcyra, Athens or their allies. An offensive alliance would have involved 
the risk of Athenian participation in an attack against Corinth, hence war 
with Sparta. 

What motive determines the behavior of the Athenians? According to 



Thucydides, a calculation of forces in a period when each side anticipates 
the imminent war. "If any of you imagine that war is far off, he is griev¬ 
ously mistaken, and is blind to the fact that Lacedaemon regards you with 
jealousy and desires war” (I, 33). That is how the Corcyran ambassadors 
express themselves before the assembly of Athens. And Thucydides him¬ 
self: “For it began now to be felt that the coming of the Peloponnesian 
War was only a question of time, and no one was willing to see the naval 
power of such magnitude as Corcyra sacrificed to Corinth; though if they 
could let them weaken each other by mutual conflict, it would be no 
bad preparation for the struggle which Athens might one day have to 
wage with Corinth and the other naval powers” (I, 44). There are three 
navies which count in Greece, that of Athens, of Corcyra and of Corinth. 
If Athens, out of fear of breaking the trace, lets Corcyra and Corinth 
unite, would she not lose face by publicizing her fear at the same time 
as she would sacrifice a considerable military advantage? When the su¬ 
premacy of the leading states over their partners is not overwhelming, they 
are led by their allies more than they lead them. They cannot, in effect, 
abandon their allies without weakening themselves dangerously. Athens 
did not possess such superiority that she could scorn the Corcyran con¬ 

The conflict of Potidaea, which Thucydides presents as the second im¬ 
mediate cause of the great war, was formally of the same type. Potidaea 
was a colony of Corinth and an ally of Athens. The Athenians decided 
it was necessary and legitimate to punish a defecting ally. They clashed 
with the Corinthians, who were desirous to defend their colony. The 
Lacedaemonians, in violation of the pact, had detached from Athens a 
tribute-paying city-state “and were openly fighting against her on the side 
of the Potidaeans” (I, 66). The interlinking of relations among cities— 
relations between metropolis and colony, between hegemonic city and al¬ 
lies—often made the determination of the just and the unjust uncertain. 

But according to Thucydides, these ambiguities of “international law” 
were not the real cause of the conflict. The historian says as much him¬ 
self, in a famous formula: “The real cause I consider to be the one which 
was formally most kept out of sight. The growth of the power of Athens 
and the fear this inspired in Lacedaemon made war inevitable” Cl, 24). 
The Corinthians, speaking at the Congress of Sparta and her allies, de¬ 
nounced the bad conduct—contrary to justice and to treaties—of the Athe¬ 
nians. But the essential accusation is that Athens was on the point of 
assuming “the role of tyrant in relation to all without distinction, that she 
commanded some and dreamed of commanding others” (I, 74). After the 
vote of the Lacedaemonians deciding that the truce had been broken and 
that they would have to wage war, Thucydides repeats that the Spartans 
had been less convinced by their allies; rather “they feared the growth 



of the power of the Athenians, seeing most of Hellas already subject to 
them" (I, 88). 

Considerations of equilibrium and considerations of equity (justice, con¬ 
ventions) are mingled, at every moment, in the course of the narrative and 
in the arguments of the first book, which is devoted to the study of what 
we should call the diplomatic circumstances and the origins of the war. But 
the historian does not hesitate to regard the first as decisive, and to put in 
the actors’ mouths admissions whose frankness is inconceivable in our day 
and age, which ideology and the role of the people condemn to hypocrisy. 
The Athenian delegates declared before the Spartan assembly: "It follows 
that it was not a very wonderful action, or contrary to the common prac¬ 
tice of mankind, if we did accept an empire that was offered to us, and 
refused to give it up under pressure of three of the strongest motives, fear, 
honor, and interest. And it was not we who set the example, for it has 
always been the law that the weaker should be subject to the stronger. 
Besides, we believed ourselves to be worthy of our position, and so you 
have thought us up to now, when the calculations of interest have made 
you take up the cry of justice—a consideration which no one had ever yet 
brought forward to hinder his ambition when he had a chance of gaining 
anything by might” (I, 76). 

The obsession of equilibrium, the fear the expansion of the Athenian 
Empire inspired in the Spartans, the resentment of the allies against the 
Athenian hegemony do not have as their chief cause the material disad¬ 
vantages of the rule of a single power. Of course, the allies are angered by 
paying tribute or furnishing ships, Sparta fears for her very existence 
should Athens become irresistible. But Hume has understood Thucydides 
precisely when he describes, among the city-states, a conflict of amour- 
propre rather than a concern for security —jealous emulation rather than 
cautious politics. The hegemonic city seeks the honor of ruling as much or 
more than the commercial or financial benefits of domination. The city- 
states rebel against subjection, which is as unworthy of a free state as sub¬ 
jection to a tyrant (that is, to an absolute and arbitrary master) is unworthy 
of a free man. Thus Athens, democratic and insular, appears to the Corin¬ 
thians and the other allies of Sparta as the major danger to the liberties of 
the Greek city-states. Thucydides, a citizen of Athens, does not condemn 
his fatherland for aspiring to empire, since such is the course of human 
affairs, but he does not deny that the Spartan camp has been that of 
traditional liberties. 

Pericles’ oration counseling war gives us another proof that the meaning 
of the conflict was the protection of autonomy. The supreme argument is 
“no concession to the Peloponnesians.” Yielding to an ultimatum is already 
accepting servitude: “For all claims from an equal, urged upon a neighbor 
as commands, before any attempt at legal settlement, be they great or be 
they small, have only one meaning, and that is slavery” (I, 140). The 


pretext is of no account. Let it not be imagined that “to die for Megara” 
would be to die for a small thing: essentials are at stake, safeguarding the 
autonomy which constitutes freedom. 

When Pericles makes this oration, he considers that war is inevitable, 
which is also what the leaders of the other coalition believe. In the 
course of this history which Thucydides’ narrative presents embroidered 
throughout by the decisions of actors, men nonetheless have, and com¬ 
municate to the reader, the sense of fate. Archidamos, King of Sparta, has 
no more illusions than Pericles as to the duration of the war once it breaks 
out: both are wise, clear-sighted men, both are resolved or resigned to the 
struggle, both know that neither of the two camps will win easily. Each is 
superior on one element, Athens at sea, Sparta on land. Maritime superiority 
does not suffice to reduce Sparta to subjection any more than the superiority 
of the hoplites will bring Athens to its knees. Thus the Corinthian am¬ 
bassador and Pericles proclaim, in turn: we shall win because we are the 
stronger, the historian himself presenting the arguments of each side in 
such a way that the extension of a hyperbolic war appears fatal in advance 
and the issue, uncertain at the start, seems to be attributed either to the 
role of chance, which limits but does not succeed in eliminating human 
intelligence, or to the faults of the vanquished. 

Certain comparisons come to the reader’s mind almost of themselves. Of 
course, the comparison between the Peloponnesian War and certain wars of 
contemporary history has been sketched by several authors, particularly 
Thibaudet and Toynbee. Such a comparison is legitimate only provided 
that it is limited in its significance and its scope. Thibaudet was describing 
the American Civil War and the European wars since Charles V. The 
first comparison seems without foundation. The War of Secession had as 
its stake the very existence of the state, several federated states claiming 
the right to leave the federation. That this war became “total” and was 
waged until absolute victory in terms of a strategic erosion still does not 
justify the historical analogy with a general war which concerns a whole 
international system, even involving, step by step, marginal or external 
political units. Of all the European wars, only that of 1914-18 or perhaps 
the two world wars taken together formally present analogous characteristics. 

A comparison, we must repeat, that is entirely formal. In Greece, the 
dominance of a sea power was most feared, because it seemed most capable 
of exploiting and oppressing, and perhaps, too, because it was wielded by 
Athens, which outstripped Sparta in her superiority to her allies. Thibaudet 
observes that in Greece it was the city-state favorable to the freedom of 
persons which wdth good reason appeared to be a threat to the freedom of 
other states. In 1914 a Continental state was at the same time the closest 
to hegemony and the most authoritarian (Tsarist Russia aside). 

In modem Europe as in ancient Greece, it is the hyperbolic amplification 
of a general war which constitutes, in the eyes of historians inclined to 



comparisons, the major fact, the one which requires the most explanation 
and involves the most consequences. Ultimately, in fact, the system of 
multipolar equilibrium, that of the Greeks or that of the Europeans, is con¬ 
demned if it provokes excessive and exhausting conflicts. Yet the formation 
of two coalitions, each around one of the leader-states, has preceded the 
explosion of the Great War and has marked a transition between the phase 
of state freedom and imperial unification. 

The Peloponnesian War, like the First World War, ended in the victory 
of the camp which sought to safeguard the freedom of city-states. Sparta's 
partial hegemony was brief, like that of Thebes which followed. Having 
rejected the only hegemony which might have been lasting, the Greek 
city-states were conquered by Macedonia, then by Rome. Having rejected 
the hegemony of Germany, the European states were subject on one side 
to the joint domination of Soviet Russia and the Communist doctrine 
(or practice), on the other to American protection. Perhaps, to quote the 
Athenian ambassadors, this latter provokes more bitterness in that it dis¬ 
simulates itself under the principle of equality. “They are so habituated to 
associate with us as equals, that any defeat whatever that clashes with their 
notions of justice, whether it proceeds from a legal judgment or from the 
power which our empire gives us, makes them forget to be grateful for 
being allowed to retain most of their possessions, and more vexed at a part 
being taken, than if we had from the first cast law aside and openly 
gratified our covetousness. If we had done so, not even they would have 
disputed that the weaker must give way to the stronger” (I, 77). 

The victory of the camp of state freedom is not enough to save a system 
of equilibrium disintegrated by the violence, the duration and the cost of 
generalized warfare. 

We have not even attempted to establish the list of rules of conduct to be 
deduced from the bipolar configuration of the relation of forcesP The rea¬ 
sons such rules are of little significance or arbitrary are the same in either 
a bipolar or a multipolar configuration. The maintenance of the configuration 
is not the primary or supreme objective of the actors. It is therefore not 
legitimate or, if one prefers, not instructive to consider as rules of rational 
conduct the precepts which must be respected in order to preserve the 
system. The only universal and formal rule is that of equilibrium in the 
vague sense Hume gave it: each actor (I should add each principal actor) 
tries not to be at the mercy of the others. It increases its resources or its 
degree of mobilization; it maneuvers in the diplomatic field, forms or breaks 

0 Morton A. Kaplan distinguishes the rigid bipolar system from the loose bipolar sys¬ 
tems, but in both cases he introduces into his model certain elements appropriate to the 
present system (e.g., the international actors). The comparison would be long and, for 
our purposes, of no use. 


alliances in order to avoid that subjection contrary to its idea of itself 
and perhaps fatal to its security. This desire “not to be at the mercy of 
others” will be expressed in varying behavior, depending on whether there 
is a plurality of chief actors of more or less equal capacities or “two giants” 
overwhelming their rivals. The combination of the desire “not to be at the 
mercy of others” and of a typical configuration permits us to sketch 
models of systems. But the models, characterized by only two traits—a 
desire for equilibrium and the configuration of the relation of forces— 
remain indeterminate in too many respects for us to be able to discover 
the laws of their functioning or development. 

Is it possible, starting from the preceding analyses, to list the variables 
which sociological or historical study of a given international system must 
consider? The concept of a variable seems to me of questionable use, since 
these data are essentially qualitative and do not even comprise the whole of 
the distinction of more and less. But if we replace the term variable by a 
neutral term, it seems to me possible to derive from the preceding chapters 
a list of chief elements of an international system, or, if one prefers, a list 
of questions which the study of international systems should answer. 

Two elements control the systems: the configuration of the relation of 
forces, the homogeneity or the heterogeneity of the system. But each of these 
two elements is subdivided in its turn. The actors are situated in a geo¬ 
graphical-historical space whose limits are more or less clearly defined. On 
the frontiers, other actors are half-integrated, half-alien to the system. The 
forces peculiar to each actor depend on his resources and on the degree 
of mobilization: this latter in its turn depends on the economic, military, 
political regime. The internal regimes which influence the relation of forces 
determine the nature and stakes of the conflicts. The same political unit 
sometimes changes objectives when it changes regimes. The dialogue of 
political units is a function of the dialogue of classes or men in power: 
at one extreme, the solidarity of kings against peoples, as was said in the 
last century (or the solidarity of Communist parties, in Eastern Europe, 
against the counterrevolution), at the other, the solidarity of the govern¬ 
ments of a state (or of a side) with the rebels or the revolutionaries within 
the rival or enemy state (or side). Between the two is sandwiched the 
diplomacy of non-intervention, each state inhibiting itself, whatever its 
ideological sympathies or its national interest, from intervening in favor of 
either the established power or of the revolution in case of civil war, 
whether open or latent. 

Homogeneity and heterogeneity involve modes and countless nuances. 
The system is more or less homogeneous or heterogeneous: homogeneous 
in a certain zone, heterogeneous in another; homogeneous in peacetime, 
heterogeneous in wartime; homogeneous with partial respect to the diplo¬ 
matic rule of non-interference, heterogeneous with the diplomatic use of 
the techniques of revolutionary action. Heterogeneity can be that of social 



structures or that of political regimes, that of ideas more than that of realities 
or, conversely, that of realities more than that of ideas. In any case, we do 
not understand the nature of the rivalry and of the dialogue of political 
units except by reference to the established power in each of them, to the 
conception of legitimacy, to the external ambitions, and. to the strategy and 
tactics of the ruling classes. 

The configuration of the relation of forces leads, by the intermediary of 
the degree of mobilization, to the internal regime; the homogeneity or 
heterogeneity of the systems leads, by the intermediary of the techniques of 
action, to the relation of forces. The two terms—relation of forces and homo¬ 
geneity of the system—are not two rigorously circumscribed variables, but 
two complementary aspects of any historical constellation. The analysis of 
these two aspects illuminates the system’s mode of functioning on the so¬ 
ciological level and the course of international relations on the historical 
level: calculation of forces and dialectic of regimes or ideas are both indis¬ 
pensable to the interpretation of diplomatic-strategic behavior in any period; 
neither the goals nor the means, neither the lawful nor the illicit are ade¬ 
quately determined by the calculation of forces alone or by the dialectic of 
ideas alone. Once we recognize that in the middle of the fifth century b.c. 
the system of the Greek city-states was bipolar and that the global system in 
the middle of the twentieth century a.d. is also bipolar, the task of the so¬ 
ciologist and the historian begins: to specify the nature, the structure, the 
functioning of the two systems. 

The distinction of change in the system and change of the system is en¬ 
tirely relative. The diplomatic groupings may be called systems because an 
event, at any point within the space considered, has repercussions which ex¬ 
tend to the whole grouping. But these systems do not maintain themselves 
by a self-regulating mechanism, for the simple reason that none of the 
chief actors subordinates his ambitions to the objective of maintaining the 
system. Athens desired, or was led to desire, hegemony; she did not have as 
her goal the crystallization of the bipolar structure or the equilibrium of her 
own league and the Lacedaemonian league. 

The same phenomenon may be considered as a change in the system or a 
change of the system depending on the number of characteristics utilized to 
define a historical system. The French Revolution inaugurated, certainly, a 
new system, since it introduced fundamental heterogeneity. Does the acces¬ 
sion of Napoleon III mark a change of the system? The unification of Ger¬ 
many in 1871 opens another phase of European history. Does it radically alter 
the European system? Such questions seem to me largely a matter of words. 
It is simplest to distinguish type and case, according to the habits of our old 
logic. When the configuration of the relation of forces becomes essentially 
different or when homogeneity yields to heterogeneity, there is a change in 
type. When heterogeneity or bipolarity are accentuated or attenuated, we 
speak of either a change in the system or a change of kind. The models or 



types of international relations serve and must serve only as a preparation for 
concrete study. 

Thucydides has drawn the stylized model of two powers, one based on 
naval force and the other on territorial force, one with men “addicted to in¬ 
novation, whose designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception 
and execution,” the other with men who "have a genius for keeping what 
they have got, accompanied by a total want of invention” 0 , 70), one 
open, the other closed to foreigners. How many times, in recent years, has 
de Tocqueville’s famous parallel been quoted as to the two peoples destined, 
by a mysterious decree of Providence, each to dominate one half of the world, 
the one by the plow and the other by the sword! The comparison of the 
two types of societies, of the two regimes, of the two ideologies, of the two 
conceptions of the international world is classical too because it is indis¬ 
pensable to historical and sociological understanding. The system depends 
on what the two poles, concretely, are, not only on the fact that they are two. 

A system which covers the planet differs, by nature, from a system of 
Greek city-states or European states. The Soviet Union and the United 
States do not run the same risk of being swept into war in spite of them¬ 
selves by the disputes of their allies or their satellites as Sparta or Athens. 
The means of destruction which the two protagonists possess change perhaps 
the essence of the diplomatic-strategic competition. On every level, differ¬ 
ences of quantity provoke qualitative revolutions. 

chapter VI 

Dialectics of Peace and War 

War is to be found throughout all history and all civilizations. With axes 
or cannon, arrows or bullets, chemical explosives or atomic chain reactions, 
remote or immediate, in isolation or en masse, by accident or according to 
rigorous method, men have killed each other, using the instruments which 
custom and the communities’ knowledge afforded them. 

Thus we might regard a "formal typology” of wars and peace as illusory, 
only a sociological typology*] retaining the concrete modes of phenomena 
being valid. Yet, if the following analyses help illuminate the logic of dip¬ 
lomatic and strategic behavior, the formal typology they reveal may be of 
some use. 

i. Types of Peace and Types of War 

I have taken war as my point of departure because strategic-diplomatic 
behavior is related to the eventuality of armed conflict, because the latter is, 
so to speak, the denouement of operations on trust. This time we shall take 
peace as our point of departure because peace is rationally the goal to which 
societies tend. 

This proposition does not contradict the principle of the unity of foreign 
policy, of the continuous relations among nations. The diplomat does not 
forget the possibility and the requirements of arbitration by arms during the 
period when he refuses to resort to violent means. Rivalry between political 
communities does not begin with the breaking of treaties, nor does it end 
with the signing of a truce. But whatever the goal of foreign policy—pos¬ 
session of territory, domination over men, triumph of an idea—this goal is not 
war itself. Some men love battle for its own sake; certain peoples engage in 
war the way others engage in sport. But at the level of the so-called higher 
civilizations, when states are legally organized, war can no longer be any- 

0We shall find one in IChapter XIlJ in [Part II | of this book. 


I 5 I 

thing but a means if consciously desired, or a calamity if provoked for a 
cause unknown to the actors. 

Peace has hitherto appeared to be the more or less lasting suspension of 
violent modes of rivalry between political units. Peace is said to prevail 
when the relations between nations do not involve the military forms of 
struggle. But since these peaceful relations occur within the shadow of past 
battles and in the fear or the expectation of future ones, the principle 
of peace, in the sense Montesquieu gives this term in his theory of govem- 
mentsp] is not different in nature from that of wars: peace is based on 
power, that is, on the relation between the capacities of acting upon each 
other possessed by the political units. Since the relations of power, in peace¬ 
time, without being the exact reflections of the actual or potential relation of 
forces, are a more or less distorted expression of it, the various types of peace 
can be related to the types of relation of forces. I distinguish three types of 
peace— equilibrium, hegemony, empire: in a given historical space, the forces 
of the political units are in balance, or else they are dominated by those of 
one among them, or else they are outclassed by those of one among them 
to the point where all the units, save one, lose their autonomy and tend to 
disappear as centers of political decisions. The imperial state, in the end, 
reserves to itself the monopoly of legitimate violence. 

One might object that imperial peace thereby ceases to be, by definition, 
a "situation of external policy.” Imperial peace would not be distinguished 
from civil peace: it would be the internal order of an empire. This objection 
might stand were the typology purely abstract, without relation to the data of 
history. Yet if there are cases in which imperial peace, once established, 
becomes indistinguishable from peace among nations, reducing imperial 
peace as such to civil peace would lead us to misunderstand the diversity of 
the engagements. 

The peace within the German Empire after 1871, despite shreds of sov¬ 
ereignty retained by Bavaria, for instance, differed less and less, as the 
years passed, from the internal peace of the French Republic. On the other 
hand, the Greek city-states, conquered by Philip and led by Alexander to 
the conquest of Asia, had not lost all political-administrative autonomy; they 
were not deprived of all the attributes which we regard as constituting 
sovereignty; they possessed immediately, in case of revolt, an embryo of 
armed forces. The Jewish war would remind us, if necessary, of the pre¬ 
cariousness of the Roman peace; the conquered peoples were not entirely 
disarmed, the ancient institutions and sovereigns, henceforth protected by 
Rome, were overlapped by the imperial order but not eliminated. In other 
words, imperial peace becomes civil peace insofar as the memory of previously 
independent political units are effaced, insofar as individuals within a paci- 

[Urhat is, the sentiment or, as we should say today, the emotion or impulse necessary 
to maintain a type of government—virtue, honor, fear. 



fied zone feel themselves less united to the traditional or local community 
and more to the conquering state. 

The empire which Bismarck forged with iron and fire became a national 
state: the Roman Empire remained a pacified zone to the end. The kings of 
France created the French nation: for a time France caused imperial peace 
to prevail throughout North Africa. 

Between peace by equilibrium and peace by empire is sandwiched the 
■peace by hegemony. The absence of war does not result from the approxi¬ 
mate equality of forces prevailing among political units and forbidding any 
one of them or any coalition to impose its will; it results, on the contrary, 
from the incontestable superiority of one of the units. This superiority is such 
that the unsatisfied states despair of modifying the status quo, and yet the 
hegemonic state does not try to absorb the units reduced to impotence. It 
does not abuse hegemony, it respects the external forms of state indepen¬ 
dence, it does not aspire to empire. 

In a system of units jealous of their independence, hegemony is a pre¬ 
carious mode of equilibrium. The German Reich, after 1870, possessed the 
kind of hegemony that Bismarck hoped to make acceptable to the other 
European states by means of moderation, thus appeasing their fears or re¬ 
sentments. The Chancellor’s successors were less fortunate; they could not 
prevent the formation of alliances re-establishing equilibrium. Perhaps Bis¬ 
marck’s Germany does not deserve to be called hegemonic, since its hegemony 
was limited to the Continent and the latter did not constitute a closed sys¬ 
tem. Yet, if we take into account Great Britain and her maritime extensions, 
the Reich was not frankly hegemonic. It had a preponderance on land as 
France had before it during the first part of the reign of Louis XIV, or 
Spain in the sixteenth century. England had always prevented such a pre¬ 
ponderance from turning into an empire or even an uncontested hegemony. 
The German preponderance would have become hegemony if the Reich, 
having beaten France and Russia, could have signed a peace of victory or 
compromise with Great Britain. The Kaiser’s Reich would have been con¬ 
tent with a hegemonic peace—Hitler’s would have dictated an imperial peace. 

In North America the hegemonic peace enforced by the United States is 
not a partial and fugitive aspect of the system of equilibrium: it is the lasting 
result of the disproportion, indicated on the map and accentuated by history, 
between the forces of the Republic of the United States and those of Mexico 
or Canada. During the last century the United States had to fight a great 
war not to enlarge the space of its sovereignty, but to maintain the federation. 
The acquisition of Louisiana, Florida, California and Texas required only 
dollars or very minor military operations. It was the Southern states’ claim to 
the right of secession which caused the shedding of oceans of blood. Once 
the federation was consolidated and the western and southern lands were 
conquered and occupied, once the Indians and the other Europeans were 
dominated or expelled, the United States was too powerful for a system of 


1 53 

equilibrium to be constituted on the American continent, too indifferent to 
the glory of ruling, not needing land to threaten the independence of the 
neighboring states to the north and south. This combination of hegemony 
and the good-neighbor policy is called the pax Americana. The hegemony of 
the United States has also contributed to the peace which has prevailed in 
South America since the Organization of American States (created at the 
instigation of the United States) forbade open war between states. (Never¬ 
theless, internal disputes, the conflicts of regimes and the repercussions of 
world diplomacy are generating a kind of cold war there.) 

Neither the ancient world nor Asia nor modern Europe has known a last¬ 
ing phase between equilibrium and empire. The Greco-Latin civilization of 
the Mediterranean, after long periods of disturbance, evolved toward impe¬ 
rial peace. In Asia the three great civilizationP-l alternated between peace by 
equilibrium and imperial peace. In Japan, peace by equilibrium was retro¬ 
spectively considered as a feudal dispersion of sovereignty because the Toku- 
gawa imperial peace, thanks to the homogeneity of culture and institutions, 
turned into civil peace. The imperial unity achieved in China over two thou¬ 
sand years ago—as a result of the final victory of one state over its rival- 
only succeeded through alternate phases of decomposition and restoration, 
of civil wars, and a peace that was both civil and imperial. In its foreign 
relations, the empire hesitated between the defensive, behind its great walls, 
and inclination toward impulses of expansion. Conquered by the Mongols, 
then by the Manchus, it never entered (before the nineteenth century) into 
a permanent system of international relations among equals. As for India, 
before the British domination it had never known as a whole the equivalent 
of the peace of the shoguns or of the peace of the Middle Empire, nor 
had it developed a system of equilibrium comparable to that of the Greek 
city-states or of the European states. 

Formally, a historical space is either unified by a force or by a single sov¬ 
ereignty, or fragmented into autonomous centers of decision and action. In 
the first case we shall call it a universal empire, in the second, warring 
states. The system of equilibrium with a multipolar configuration tends to 
stabilize relations among units which acknowledge each other and to limit 
the conflicts that cause one unit to oppose another. As a matter of fact, 
the conflicts have always, at one period or another, extended and intensified 
until the partner-rivals within a civilization appear to be warring states, re¬ 
sponsible for the common ruin, to the observer who has studied the centuries 
that have elapsed between the time of the actors and the observer, the future 
of the former and the latter’s past. 

The ternary classification of the forms of peace provides at the same time 
the most formal and the most general classification of wars: “perfect” wars, 
according to the political notion of war, are inter-state. They bring into 

OOThe word taken in the sense of Spengler’s “cultures” or Toynbee’s “societies.” 



conflict political units which recognize each other’s existence and legitimacy. 
We shall call super-state or imperial the wars that have as their object, origin 
or consequence the elimination of certain belligerents and the formation of 
a unit on a higher level. We shall call infra-state or infra-imperial the wars 
that have as their stake the maintenance or the decomposition of a political 
unit, whether national or imperial. 

Inter-state wars become imperial when one of the actors in an international 
system, whether voluntarily or not, is led to establish his hegemony or em¬ 
pire over his rival, in case of victory. Inter-state wars tend to be amplified into 
hyperbolic war when one of the actors ventures to acquire an overwhelming 
superiority of forces: such was the case in the Peloponnesian War or in the 
First World War. The violence of the conflict can be imputed neither 
to the technique of combat nor to the passions of the belligerents, but to the 
geometry of the relation of forces. It is the magnitude of the stake—freedom 
of the Greek city-states or of the European states—that inflames military 
ardor. Great wars often mark the shift from one configuration to another, 
from one system to another, and this shift itself has many causes. 

In a general way, we cannot attribute to wars of a determined category 
this or that concrete characteristic. Infra-state or infra-imperial wars such as 
the war of the Jews against Rome, of the Chouans against the French Rev¬ 
olution, wars of secession such as the war of Algerian liberation, which 
bring into conflict an organized power and those populations which refuse 
to obey it, are often among the most cruel; they are, in certain respects, 
civil wars, especially if the established power wins. Similarly, war becomes 
imperial when one of the belligerents brandishes a transnational principle, 
and the inter-state conflict is charged with partisan passions. The enemy 
is then simultaneously alien and adversary (or heretic or traitor). 

It would be just as dangerous to insist on these abstract notions. Men are 
not always interested in safeguarding the political unit to which they belong 
or the historical idea their state incarnates. There are units which outlive 
themselves, and ideas devoid of meaning. Even if these categories determined 
the violence of the hostility, the former alone determines neither the dura¬ 
tion of the combat nor the conduct of the combatants. 

2. Stakes of War and Principles of Peace 

These two formal typologies each require further analysis. If the three 
kinds of peace—peace by equilibrium, by hegemony, and by empire—have 
power as their principle JUthe question will be asked: is there no other princi¬ 
ple of peace except power? If wars are not concretely defined by their inter-, 
supra- and infra-state character, it will be asked: what other qualifications 
should be applied to them in order to define them? 

0This word, may I remind the reader, is used here in the sense Montesquieu gives it. 



Let us answer tills last question first. Many classifications of wars are 
possible and have been proposed. Perhaps none of them can be accepted 
without question; perhaps many classifications have some validity. It is not 
evident that the different kinds of wars can be organized into a harmonious 
scheme. It seems to me, however, that the preceding typology, justified by 
the relation it establishes between the types of peace and the structure of the 
international system, can be coupled to two other typologies, one based 
on the nature of the political units and the historical ideas which the bellig¬ 
erents incarnate, the other on the nature of the weapons and the military 
machinery. The first of these two typologies implies a reference to ends, the 
second a reference to means. 

It is customary to speak of feudal wars, dynastic wars, national wars, 
colonial wars. All these expressions suggest that the mode of internal organi¬ 
zation of collectivities imposes its quality, gives its style to the belligerent be¬ 
havior of the political units. In reality, the mode of organization helps de¬ 
termine, if it does not exclusively determine, the occasions and stakes of the 
conflicts, the judgments of statesmen on legitimate and illegitimate action, 
their conception of diplomacy and of war. The principle of legitimacyto 
return to an expression used above, answers two questions at once: who com¬ 
mands within the state? to what unit should a specific territory or population 
belong? Wars resemble the principle of legitimacy prevailing over the space 
and in the time within which they are waged. 

The principle of legitimacy creates the occasion or the cause of the conflict. 
The relations of vassal to suzerain are intermingled in such a way that con¬ 
tradictions appear. The desire for power leads to the failure of certain vassals 
to fulfill their obligations. The limits of legitimate action are difficult to trace 
when so many inferior powers retain their own military means or claim some 
freedom of decision. As long as land or men belong to ruling families, the 
stake of a war is a province which two sovereigns dispute by means of juridi¬ 
cal arguments or guns, or a throne which two princes claim. The day the 
collective consciousness recognizes that men have the right to choose their 
political unit, wars become national, either because two states claim the same 
province or because populations divided among traditional units seek to con¬ 
stitute a single state. Finally, if public opinion were to admit tomorrow that 
the national era has passed and that economic or military requirements of the 
great ensembles should prevail over the preferences of the governed, wars 
would become imperial as they have never yet been: the Roman conquerors 
in the Mediterranean, the Europeans in Asia and Africa did not deny the 
national idea; they were unaware of it or refused its advantages to populations 
or to classes of men they regarded as inferior and unworthy, either tempo- 

0Of course, the word principle is used here in its ordinary sense, and not in that of 



rarily or permanently, of the dignity of citizenship. This time, the conquerors 
would deny the idea in the name of material necessities. 

Neither Nazis nor Communists invoked such necessities. The true jus¬ 
tification of the Third Reich’s undertaking, as the doctrinaires of Nazism 
conceived it, was the racial superiority of the German people. The true jus¬ 
tification of world Sovietization, according to the doctrinaires of Marxism- 
Leninism, is the superiority or the inevitable victory of the regime which they 
call socialist. In our time, and perhaps in other periods as well, conquerors 
feel the need of justifying themselves, morally or historically, in their own 

The principles of legitimacy provoke three kinds of conflicts: those which 
result from the plurality of possible interpretations, those which derive from 
the contradiction between the existing status and the new principle, and 
those which result from the actual application of the principle and from the 
modifications that appear in the relation of forces. 

The claims of the King of England to the throne of France belong to the 
first category, as do the incompatible claims of Germany and France to 
Alsace, an imperial territory in the Middle Ages, of Germanic dialect and 
culture, conquered by Louis XIV, and whose population, in 1871, wanted to 
remain French. In 1914 the territorial status of Europe was a compromise be¬ 
tween the national idea and the heritage of dynastic rights. The partition of 
Poland, the multinational empires of Austria-FIungary and Turkey were the 
work of past centuries. They did not conform to the ideas of the age. Yet 
every modification of territorial status risked upsetting the equilibrium. The 
guardians of European order belonged to the past; perhaps they were working 
for peace. The champions of the national idea were accounted bellicose in 
the immediate present, even if they were peace-loving in the long run. 

We need not even bring up the countless cases in which a state, absolute 
monarchy or democratic republic seeks to “round out” its territory, to explain 
the frequency of inter-state conflicts. The tendency to justification, the desire 
for recognition, both create more occasions for quarrels than are submitted to 
arbitration. Even if the permanent instability of the material conditions (eco¬ 
nomic, political, demographic) did not compel an incessant and precarious 
adjustment of equilibrium, the evolution of historical ideas would burden 
the statesman with the heavy task of reconciling the changing imperatives 
of justice with the constant necessity of equilibrium. It is even easier to un¬ 
derstand, in the light of this analysis, why the classical jurists should have 
distinguished legal wars from just wars, left it to moralists to determine what 
justice was, and urged princes not to outlaw their enemies. 

Yet up to now we have enumerated only the historical ideas which were, 
as such, ideas of statehood—in other words, which could serve as a basis for 
the political organization of collectivities. Certain ideas are national, religious 
or ideological. In certain periods, conflicts of ideas and rivalry for power are 
inextricably mingled: sometimes the desire for national or state power pre- 



vails over religious or ideological faith, sometimes the latter gains ascendancy 
over the former. The so-called realistic statesman, even if he is a dignitary of 
the Church, is the man who employs the passions of crowds with a view to 
the exclusive interest of the political unit which he serves, an interest identi¬ 
fied, as far as he is concerned, with the weakening of rival units. But the 
moralist or the historian should not reproach those who, at whatever point in 
the scale, set the triumph or at least the safety of their Church, or their truth, 
above the reinforcement of a state that may be hostile to the supreme values. 

The principle of legitimacy is often at the origin of conflicts (which does 
not mean that it is their true cause); it is sometimes consecrated by the result 
of the combat: the assassination of an Austrian archduke by Serbian nation¬ 
alists set fire to the powder; national states emerged from the explosion. But 
Europe, after 1918, even had it not been lacerated by as many national quar¬ 
rels as Europe before the war, was also less stable. The War of 1939, provoked 
by a desire for empire, ended in two worlds, each more or less in conformity 
with the idea of one of the factions of the victorious alliance. 

The historical idea is linked to the military force. Down through the ages, 
political organization and military organization have had a reciprocal rela¬ 
tionship. In ancient civilization all citizens—but not the half-castes or the 
slaves—were combatants. Thus the Greek city-states possessed a military force 
of which number—great numbers and not small, as legend has it—was often 
the foundation. An empire measured its forces by the number of its nobles 
who enjoyed the right of bearing arms, and not by that of its subjects. Greece, 
and not the Persian Empire, was, as H. Delbriick has shown® an almost 
inexhaustible reservoir of soldiers. 

Military force also depended on the available equipment and on the more 
or less effective use of this equipment. Impact weapons and projectiles de¬ 
termined the distance between the combatants. The influence of gunpowder 
on the volume of resources necessary to the armies, and hence on the di¬ 
mensions of the political units, is a commonplace in historical accounts. Con¬ 
scription and industry, universal military service and the monstrous increase 
in the degree of mobilization are at the origin of the hyperbolic character 
assumed by the First World War: a democratic war, since “civilians in uni¬ 
form” faced each other; a partially ideological war, since these citizens believed 
they were “defending their souls’ll; a war of matdriel, waged until the nations 
in conflict were exhausted, since the armies did not win victories of annihila¬ 
tion and since both the physical and human materiel mobilizable on either 
side was enormous. 

The double dependence of the military machine on social and political 
organization, and on the techniques of destruction, does not permit us, in this 

Efeee below, Chap. VIII. 

□The two expressions are taken from the speech of Paul Valery when Marshal 
Petain was received in the Academie Franfaise. 


I 5 8 

abstract analysis, to discern pure types than can he characterized by a single 
word. Each military system is an organization of arms varying with a social 
hierarchy, or again, by reversing the formula, the deployment of a certain 
society, taking into account the effectiveness of the weapons and their various 
combinations. If the men in combat have always been, to a degree, practical 
—in Auguste Comte’s sense of the word positif —that is, if they sought to 
achieve goals and modify their behavior in relation to experience and rational¬ 
ity—they were never, before modern times, exclusively rational, that is, capa¬ 
ble of ignoring morality and custom in order to conceive of warfare in 
terms of pure effectiveness. Further, this rationality, oriented toward an 
exclusive victory over the enemy as toward a single object, would have been 
partial and, in certain cases, unreasonable with regard to the privileged class: 
the structure of the military system is not without influence on the structure 
of society. Is that mling class rational which gives weapons to the discon¬ 
tented classes at the risk of weakening its own power? Throughout history it 
is rare to find a ruling class which, in the manner of the Meiji reformers, 
took the initiative of a political and social revolution in order to establish the 
military machine indispensable to their country’s independence and strength. 
More often, the privileged are incapable of overturning the order from which 
they benefit and which has become incompatible with the requirements of 
the system of combat: then appears an Ataturk who liquidates the Ottoman 
Empire and founds a new state. 

Only in our times does military technique, following the example of in¬ 
dustrial technique, free itself of all shackles and advance indifferent to the 
human consequences of its progress. Once production or at least the capacity 
for production becomes (or seems to have become) a goal in itself, how could 
it be otherwise with destruction or capacity for destruction? Industry and war 
are related, inseparable. The growth of one, which generous hearts acclaim, 
furnishes resources to the other, which is cursed by men of good will. Lan¬ 
guage itself reminds us of this indissoluble alliance, which is symbolized by 
the resemblance of automobiles and tanks, long files of workmen and columns 
of soldiers, armored divisions and families fleeing cities: the same word, 
power , designates the capacity to impose one’s will on one’s kind and to domi¬ 
nate nature. 

Of course, a difference exists, although it is often misunderstood. Man’s 
utilization of water and air, the transformation of coal into heat, of heat into 
energy, the eventual domestication of the phenomena of fusion, spontaneously 
produced in the sun—all the countless, foreseeable and rigorous methods for 
the exploitation of natural resources belong to the order of technology. 
Whether it is a question of substituting energy from coal, oil or the atom, for 
labor, of manufacturing objects for which the cosmos offered elements but 
not models (transformers, automobiles, refrigerators, etc.) or of improving 
and multiplying the plants or animals by which humanity is fed, the behavior 
remains essentially technological, in other words, it leads back to the planned 



combination of means with a view to ends. The vagueness of our knowledge 
and the risks involved in applying to concrete reality laws established in the 
laboratory create degrees of uncertainty, enforce margins of security; they do 
not modify the essence of technological behavior, of human power over na¬ 

Power over men is also characterized by rationality, once the workers, ap¬ 
parently subject to the power of their fellow men, actually obey the impera¬ 
tives of technology. The authority of the technologists is not so much per¬ 
sonal authority as an awareness of the discipline which a humanized nature 
imposes upon all. On the other hand, diplomatic-strategic action tends to 
constrain or convince another center of autonomous decisions, in other words 
a consciousness whose response to external challenge involves an essential 
unpredictability: any consciousness may prefer death to submission. 

The combined progress of the techniques of production and destruction 
introduces a 'principle of peace, different from power, which usage has al¬ 
ready baptized. Peace by tenor is that peace which reigns (or would reign) 
between political units each of which has (or would have) the capacity to 
deal mortal blows to the other. In this sense, peace by terror could be also de¬ 
scribed as peace by impotence. When traditional peace prevailed among rival 
political units, the power of each was defined by the capacity to impose its 
will upon the other by the use or the threat of force. In the ideal peace by 
terror, there would be no further inequality between rivals, since each would 
possess thermonuclear bombs which, dropped on the other’s cities, would 
claim millions of victims. Can we still speak of a fairly powerful nation, or 
of equilibrium or disequilibrium, once the side which has the fewest thermo¬ 
nuclear bombs and the least-perfected launching vehicles still possesses the 
capacity to inflict upon its enemy losses out of all proportion to the advantages 
of any victory? 

Peace by terror differs fundamentally from any sort of peace by power 
(equilibrium, hegemony, empire). The balance of forces is still approximate, 
equivocal, continually threatened either by a secondary unit changing camp 
or by the unequal development of the leading states. The calculation of forces 
involves risks: it is only when under fire that the virtues of armies and peoples 
are revealed. The course of hostilities in relation to diplomatic and strategic 
combinations adds further uncertainties. It is conceivable that terror could 
lead to technical certainty. The destruction which the weakest state would 
have the means of inflicting upon its enemy, without being precisely mea¬ 
surable in advance, would be in any case sufficient for war to be senseless, 
just as the resistance of a bridge, though not precisely measurable, is in any 
case sufficient to sustain the maximum weight which it will some day have 
to bear. 

The perfection of this peace by terror has not yet been achieved, even be¬ 
tween the United States and the Soviet Union. Perhaps it will never be 



achieved® In effect, it requires the certain knowledge that none of the bel¬ 
ligerents can, in a surprise attack, eliminate the enemy’s means of reprisal or 
reduce them to such a point that the eventual reprisal no longer inflicts upon 
the aggressor “unacceptable” losses. It has not been proved that this is actually 
the case. Today or tomorrow, one side or the other may perfect its means of 
passive defense (shelters for the population) and active defense (rockets 
against bombardment planes or against ballistic missiles) as well as its means 
of aggression (number and position of ballistic missiles) to the point where 
the leaders are tempted by the possibility of a Pearl Harbor on a thermonu¬ 
clear scale—in other words, of a massive attack on all the enemy’s means of 
reprisal and on several of its cities. Would not, therefore, the victim of the 
aggression have to capitulate, since retaliation would not noticeably weaken 
the aggressor, and would involve its own total destruction? Whatever the im¬ 
probability of such a hypothesis, peace by terror will only be perfected when 
the advantage possessed today by the one who strikes first is suppressed or 
reduced to the minimum. 

Aside from the vulnerability of the means of reprisal, the uncertainty con¬ 
cerns also the “amount of destruction endurable” or the “threshold of satu¬ 
ration.” Initiating war would be absolutely senseless if the aggressor were 
assured of being also totally destroyed or knew that the number of thermonu¬ 
clear bombs necessary to eliminate the enemy’s means of reprisal was such 
that its own population or humanity as a whole would be gravely threatened 
by radioactive fallout. Despite varying opinions among experts, we have not 
yet reached this point. Here, the question rises: at what point of destruction 
does war cease to be a justifiable political instrument? By the end of the 
Thirty Years’ War the German population had been diminished by half. In 
1941 the first battles cost the Soviet Union tens of millions of inhabitants 
and more than a third of its industry, which had fallen into German hands. 
The Soviet Union nonetheless survived and ultimately triumphed. 

Of course, losing by occupation and losing by extermination, losing in a 
few minutes and losing in several years are not equivalent phenomena. Let 
us be content, provisionally, with noting the original factor which thermonu¬ 
clear weapons introduce into military calculations: they make possible de¬ 
struction of such magnitude that the cost of combat would in all rationality 
seem to be superior to the advantage of victory. In this sense, the effect of 
weapons of massive destruction could be to jeopardize Clausewitz’s formula 
“war is the continuation of policy by other means.” 

Between peace by power and peace by impotence exists a third term, at 
least on the conceptual level: peace by satisfaction. Valery once said that 
there can be no true peace except in a world where all the states are satisfied 
with the status quo. But this status always reflects the relations existing at the 
end of the preceding trial by force. The status which satisfies some provokes 

0Cf. a detailed analysis below, Chap. XIV. 



claims from others, and this is why there are only truceP of a more or less 
precarious nature. 

What are the conditions, in the abstract, of a peace by satisfaction? Per¬ 
haps the theory of objectives will permit us to answer such a question. The 
political units should first seek neither territory external to that under their 
sovereignty, nor alien populations. This first condition is neither absurd nor 
even unrealizable. Let us suppose that men are conscious of their nationality 
—that is, of the political-cultural community to which they wish to belong; 
why should the leaders seek to integrate by constraint human groups which 
feel alien, or forbid them to join the nationality of their choice? 

Let us suppose the national idea were universally admitted, and honestly 
applied. Is this enough? Certainly not: it is necessary for political units not to 
seek to extend themselves, either to increase their material or human resources, 
to disseminate their institutions, or to enjoy the most vain and intoxicating 
of victories, the pride of ruling. The satisfaction derived from the respect of 
one principle of legitimacy must be supplemented by the suspension of 
rivalry for land and men, force and idea, and even for pride. 

None of these hypotheses is contradictory or even, as such, unrealizable. 
But we must proceed with care: nothing is done so long as something remains 
to be done. Satisfaction will be lasting and assured only on condition that it 
is general. If one of the actors nourishes ambitions or is suspected of nourish¬ 
ing them, how could the others keep from returning to the infernal cycle of 
competition? Not to take precautions if he—my neighbor, the evil one, that 
is—is plotting my death, would be unreasonable and even culpable. But what 
precaution will replace the superiority of strength, the use of this superiority, 
while there is still time, the accumulation of resources to guarantee this su¬ 

In other words, peace by consent presupposes that confidence is general; it 
therefore requires a revolution in the procedure of international relations, a 
revolution which would bring to an end the era of suspicion and inaugurate 
that of security. But this revolution, unless there is a conversion of souls, must 
affect institutions. In other words, universal peace by universal consent and 
mutual confidence does not seem to me effectively possible if the political 
units do not find a substitute for security by force. Universal empire would 
furnish this substitute, since it would suppress the autonomy of centers of 
decisions. The rule of law, in the Kantian sense, would also furnish it, insofar 
as the states would commit themselves to obeying the decisions of an 
arbitrator, a tribunal or an assembly and have no doubt that this commitment 
would be honored by all. But how would this doubt be dissipated if the 
community was not in the position to constrain the criminal? 

The universal state and the rule of law are not like concepts; the one ap¬ 
pears at the end of power politics, the other at the end of the evolution of 

0Paul Valery: Regards sur le monde actuel. 



international law. But both ultimately imply the suppression of what has 
been the essence of international politics: the rivalry of states which put their 
pride and their duty in taking the law into their own hands. 

Hence there has never been an international system including the whole 
of the planet. The partial systems have known only peace by power. If, in 
certain areas, at certain periods in time, we divine the premises of a peace by 
satisfaction, the relations of power, over a larger area and on a higher level, 
do not permit us to state that the principle of peace has been satisfaction. 
Since 1945 we have seen the beginnings of a peace by terror (between the 
Soviet Union and the United States) and a peace by satisfaction (in West¬ 
ern Europe). But the international system tends to become worldwide and, 
thereby, the traditional types assume new appearances and are juxtaposed or 
combined in a system of singular complexity. 

3. Warlike Peace 

Peace, whose types we have distinguished in the course of the preceding 
pages, was defined strictly by the absence of war and not by a positive fac¬ 
ulty: virtus (to return to Spinoza’s expression). Even peace by consent does 
not seem to us distinct from the world of egoism. Does the notion, current 
today, of a cold war call into question the distinction between war and peace? 
I do not think so. We have said that Clausewitz’s formula—war is the con¬ 
tinuation of policy by other means—has been replaced by its opposite: policy 
is the continuation of war by other means. But these two formulas are, for¬ 
mally, equivalent. They both express the continuity of competition and the 
use of alternately violent and non-violent means toward ends which do not 
differ in essence. At most we may add that the margin of semi-violent means, 
regarded as legitimate in peacetime, has a tendency to broaden, and that 
Montesquieu’s precept, “nations ought in time of peace to do one another all 
the good they can, and in time of war as little injury as possible,” is further 
from practice now than it has ever been. But it has probably never been very 

The situation known as a cold war nonetheless offers certain original fea¬ 
tures, some of which derive from the peace hy terror, others from the double 
heterogeneity, both historical and ideological, of a system extended to the 
limits of the entire globe. These original features may be summarized, I 
believe, by the three words deterrence, persuasion, subversion, which desig¬ 
nate the three modes of cold-war diplomatic-military strategy. 

Peace by terror involves the use of a so-called deterrence strategy. Each of 
the two super powers, possessing more or less equivalent means of destruction, 
makes a play to the other by threatening to resort to the supreme argument 
of weapons of mass destruction. Does peace by terror imply the permanent, 
definitive character of cold war (barring a general and controlled disarma¬ 
ment)? This is not certain. But the present phase of the peace by terror has 
special characteristics. 


First of all, it constitutes the initial phase of peace by terror. Humanity has 
not yet grown accustomed to the new universe, which it is hesitantly ex¬ 
ploring, incapable of foregoing the threat of thermonuclear war, eager not 
to put this threat into practice, uncertain of the ultimate compatibility be¬ 
tween the strategic use of the threat and not carrying it out. 

At the time when the United States possessed an atomic monopoly, the 
Soviet Union had an irresistible superiority of conventional weapons. The 
inequality of risks taken by the European and American partners in the At¬ 
lantic Alliance created a climate of reciprocal suspicion: the desire for peace 
on the part of the state that has the least to lose in case of war never seems 
resolute enough for the allies who have nothing to hope for in case of con¬ 
flict, even in case of victory. It was not the Soviet Union’s production of 
atomic and thermonuclear bombs but the development of strategic bombers 
and above all of ballistic missiles which put an end to these suspicions and 
convinced all the Western powers that they were in the same boat. 

At this moment there appeared another cause for apprehension: was the 
peace by terror really secured? At what point was the advantage of either 
the United States or the Soviet Union in the race for arms, bombs and de¬ 
livery systems, passive defense for the population and active defense against 
missiles, likely to compromise the peace by terror? Or again, to substitute 
another probably better expression, in what measure is the balance of terror 
as stable or unstable as the balance of forces? If the balance of terror were 
perfect—giving this word the same meaning as above—the notion of the 
balance of forces would have lost all meaning. But theoreticians and states¬ 
men are not in agreement on this point. Rightly or wrongly, the arms race 
keeps alive the secret anxiety that the balance of terror is as precarious as the 
old balance of power. 

At the same time, humanity is questioning itself as to the prospects: is it 
desirable or deplorable that the number of members of the atomic club should 
increase? There is no lack of argument for both alternatives: could those 
states not possessing atomic weapons be protected tomorrow by an ally? Will 
the United States assume the excessive risk of the destruction of its cities in 
order to save West Berlin today and Western Europe tomorrow? Or rather, 
will the Russians believe that the United States will assume this risk? But 
on the other hand, is it not terrifying to imagine that within ten or fifteen 
years states like Egypt or China will possess weapons whose explosive power 
can be counted in thousands (twenty thousand for the Hiroshima bomb) and 
millions of tons of TNT (for the thermonuclear bomb)!® In short, men 
have always waged the wars for which they were preparing. The advice si vis 
pacem para helium justified preparations: it has never, however faithfully 

EDA single thermonuclear bomb has an explosive power superior to that of all the bombs 
dropped on Germany between 1939 and 1945. 



taken, prevented war. Can one use diplomatically the threat of a war which 
one wants to avoid at almost any cost? 

Peace by terror is accompanied by ideological rivalry, characteristic of all 
heterogeneous systems. In the systems which include North America, Europe 
and northern Asia, the two chief actors are in conflict neither for territory 
nor for men. The United States and the Soviet Union both occupy an un¬ 
derpopulated space. They have reserves of arable soil and have no reason to 
fear the growth of their populations. Now, in any bipolar system, the leaders, 
incapable of ruling together, are doomed to competition, any progress of the 
one seeming a danger to the other. Today’s great powers cannot rule together 
because of the incompatibility of their institutions and their principles of 
legitimacy .0 Therefore they have the entire planet for their theater and all 
nations and contested frontiers as the stake of a dispute which they are un¬ 
willing to decide upon by the sword and which they cannot settle by negotia¬ 

Not all heterogeneous systems have provoked the equivalent of the present 
modes of cold war. The origin of the novelty is a combination of industry 
and conscription, of technology and democracy. During the First World War 
the belligerents discovered that civilians “in uniform” did not agree, as readily 
as professional soldiers, to die without knowing for what or for whom. Propa¬ 
ganda, organization of enthusiasm behind the lines as well as at the front, 
involved, of necessity, an element of ideology, a political and moral justifica¬ 
tion of the cause to which so many lives and so much wealth was sacrificed. 
The logic of the justification cut across military necessities. If the Allied cause 
was just, that of the Central Powers was not. If the conviction that their 
cause was just sustained the courage of the combatants and constituted an 
element of strength, it was useful to spread doubt, on the other side of the line 
of fire, as to the nature of the cause which both soldiers and civilians were 
defending, or believed they were defending. Thus, inexorably, each side 
passed from organizing enthusiasm at home to organizing defeatism among 
the enemy. 

Technological means (radio, television) and the establishment of revolu¬ 
tionary parties are enough to make this war of propaganda, newspapers, tracts 
and sound waves permanent. Allied spokesmen had tried to separate the Ger¬ 
man people from its regime (and to a certain extent had succeeded): “You 
are not fighting for yourselves,” they insisted by every available means. “You 
are fighting for your masters, the despots who have deceived you and are 
leading you to the abyss. We do not make war against the German people but 
against imperial despotism.” Whatever judgment is made about the Versailles 

EIlThe question often asked, do the United States and the Soviet Union ultimately 
seek security (or power), or on the contrary the diffusion of their ideas, is senseless. 
Whether statesmen believe they seek one or the other, they cannot fail to seek one 
and the other, since one involves the other. 



Treaty, it must have appeared, in the eyes of the conquered, as a sinister 
mockery of the hopes which the propaganda of the democracies had awakened 
during the war. It was no different from 1939 to 1945; each side attempted 
to persuade the enemy masses that they were fighting for and because of a 
minority of exploiters, capitalists, plutocrats, Nazis, Jews or Communists, not 
for the fatherland and for a regime that was ultimately just. In the end, all 
these kinds of propaganda neutralized each other or were neutralized by the 
faults of statesmen and strategists. Every people followed its leaders to the 
end: the German armies of occupation revived the various traditional patrio¬ 
tisms; in Russia, the brutality of the occupants forged the unity of the Soviet 
regime and the population; the Anglo-American insistence on unconditional 
surrender deprived the adversaries of National Socialism of what would have 
been their best argument, the chance of escaping absolute defeat. 

With Europe divided into a Sovietized zone and a zone of pluralist de¬ 
mocracy, with the custom, inherited from the war, of foreign-language broad¬ 
casts, the organizing of defeatism abroad, if not of enthusiasm at home, has 
become a permanent and normal aspect of international relations. Invectives 
against foreign regimes do not achieve the same violence as during the hos¬ 
tilities. Western broadcasts to the countries of Eastern Europe tend to assume 
an informative character rather than an openly combative one. But informa¬ 
tion seeks to be a weapon as soon as it addresses the governed over the heads 
of the leaders and breaks the monopoly which the state claims to exercise. 
The minimum result aimed at by the psychological weapon in cold war is to 
prevent the totalitarian regimes from being alone with their peoples: the 
third man—the stranger, the enemy, the foreigner, the democracies, world 
opinion—is always present. He does not suppress, hut he limits the modem 
form of the royal prerogative, the right of official lies, of excluding speech 
and interpretation from the outside. 

It is difficult to measure exactly the effectiveness of the strategy of per¬ 
suasion, but experience suggests that it disturbs neither the Soviet regimes 
nor the pluralist regimes or, to use the concepts I prefer, the regimes of 
monopolistic parties and the pluralist-constitutional regimes, provided the 
former are based on a national party which has effectively accomplished the 
Revolution, and that the latter reveal a determination and give the people 
the feeling that they are governed. It is not the Western strategy of persua¬ 
sion which provoked the Polish and Hungarian revolts of 1956, any more 
than the Soviet strategy of persuasion was responsible for the collapse of the 
Fourth Republic. 

Things happen quite differently the day persuasion is transformed into 
subversion—in other words, when action to overturn an established power 
and substitute for it another is added to the language defining what is ex¬ 
tolled and what is not (the regime of the future or the regime of the other). 
We use the expression technique of subversion rather than subversive war 
because this latter notion seems equivocal. It tends to identify a juridically 



defined species of conflict and a means of combat. There is an obvious link 
between the conflicts in which, at the outset, a single one of the belligerents 
is internationally recognized and the methods of subversion: that is to say, 
the revolutionary party which has no or only a few organized troops is obliged 
to resort to the methods of subversion. But these two notions are nonetheless 
conceptually separable and sometimes actually separated. 

Legally, the wars which French authors have acquired the habit of calling 
subversive or revolutionary belong to the genre of conflicts which we have 
called infra-state or infra-imperial. They can be classified with the civil wars 
since, initially, only one side is recognized by the international community. 
But civil wars are not all subversive; the War of Secession in America, al¬ 
though juridically a civil war, was fought by two powers organized from the 
outset. An undertaking against an established power, like that of General 
Franco, does not always resort to means which, in the eyes of French theore¬ 
ticians, are the very essence of subversive war, that is, the conversion and 
recruiting of the people. Subversion is the weapon used by a national or 
revolutionary party to strike down the recognized authority in possession of 
the military and administrative machinery. 

If revolutionary parties all belong to the same juridical category, if they 
almost all resort to the weapon of subversion, it is still proper to outline sev¬ 
eral cases, depending on the relations between the established power and 
the revolutionary party. In China the stake was the regime of an existing, 
undisputed state. Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung both sought to gain 
leadership over eternal China. Which men, in the name of which ideas, 
would take over the Middle Empire and adapt it to the requirements of the 
industrial age, these were the questions which the civil war was to decide. 
In Indonesia, in Indo-China, in Tunisia, in Morocco, in Algeria, the stake 
was the independence of a population subject to foreign domination or of a 
state which had transferred its sovereignty to the advantage of a protecting 
state. The Algerian War was bom from a revolt. The FLN nationalists were 
rebels and the French government stated that it was dealing with an internal 
affair. But historically, sociologically, since 1945, all wars called subversive 
by French authors, from Indonesia and Indo-China to Algeria, have belonged 
to a category which is not defined by the concept of civil wars: these wars of 
imperial disintegration, which are defined as subversive in the eyes of the 
theoreticians of the ex-imperial state, are called wars of liberation in the 
language of the nationalists. We shall understand nothing of the nature of 
these conflicts if we insist on the analysis of only the technique of subversion 
and forget two essential facts: the sympathy of a great part of public opinion 
for the anti-colonialist cause, and the community of race, language and re¬ 
ligion between the revolutionaries and the masses, and not between the 
masses and the established power. 

Abstractly, the goal of subversion is to withdraw a population from the 
administrative and moral authority of an established power and to integrate 



it -within other -political and military frameworks, sometimes in and hy con¬ 
flict. From all evidence, success or failure chiefly depends on the spontaneous 
relations between the active minority leading the combat and the mass of the 

To Western eyes, what matters most is the relation between the active 
minority and communism (local party or Soviet bloc). When this minority 
is composed of Communists or directed by them, as was the case in Indo- 
China, national liberation brings with it a regime which adheres to the Soviet 
bloc. When the minority includes a Communist faction, Western strategy 
hesitates between the fear of a Communist advance and the desire to favor 
“national liberation” (the moderate nationalists will resist the Communists). 
When the minority is anti-Communist, Western strategists (except for 
those who belong to the ex-imperial power) tend to favor the nationalist 
cause, either by ideological sympathy or by calculation. Still the spokesmen 
for the ex-imperial power may contend that the national revolution will turn 
to the advantage of the Communists, despite the intentions or convictions of 
the nationalists. 

Whatever the merits or defects of the two possible Western strategies in 
colonial territories, one yielding to and the other resisting the nationalist 
claims, events in the territory are chiefly controlled by the relation between 
the revolutionaries and the masses, not by the relation between the revolu¬ 
tionaries and the blocs in conflict on the world scene. The outcome of these 
wars assumes its historical significance within the framework of global diplo¬ 
macy; the causes of the victories and defeats are chiefly local. 

4. Dialectics of Antagonism 

Deterrence, persuasion, subversion—these three concepts designate modes 
of action, i.e., behavior oriented to the conduct of other men, neutrals or 
objects. Analyses of these three means of action, even on the most abstract 
level, are incomplete insofar as they neglect the dialectical essence of politics, 
namely the law of antagonism. Each of these procedures is employed by at 
least two actors: it is the dialogue of the actors which establishes the mean¬ 
ing of the action. 

The strategy of deterrence seemed unilateral as long as the Soviet Union 
did not have the means of inflicting upon the United States the blows which 
the latter would be capable of striking against her. This asymmetry was 
more apparent than real, as long as Europe was without protection. Even the 
appearance of asymmetry has vanished, thereby producing a doubt as to the 
value of deterrence once the latter becomes reciprocal. To what degree is the 
threat of killing plausible if the other’s death is to be followed by our own? 
Is threat of mutual suicide of any use in diplomacy? 

In Part III we shall study in detail the problems of diplomacy in the Atomic 
Age. Let us confine ourselves here to enumerating the three possibilities 
which, in the abstract, the reciprocal capacity for destruction affords. If war 



signified mutual suicide, either the great powers would not fight any longer, 
or they would fight without resorting to weapons too destructive to be used 
rationally, or else they would fight by means of satellites, interposed allies or 
neutrals. Peace, non-atomic war, with or without participation of the mem¬ 
bers of the atomic club, these are the three hypotheses. A limited, non-atomic 
war between the great powers of the system has not yet occurred, as if the 
leaders mistrusted each other, fearing that once again the intoxication of bat¬ 
tle and the desire for victory at any cost might drown out the voice of reason 
and the simple instinct of self-preservation. 

The reciprocity of deterrence tends, it seems to me, to neutralize a strategy 
which must be unilateral in order to be completely convincing. The more 
inhuman the threat, the rarer the circumstances in which it will be taken 
seriously. When unilateral, the strategy of deterrence holds a death-threat 
over the enemy. When bilateral, it holds an almost similar threat over all the 
actors. Reciprocity diminishes the frequency of use and increases the improb¬ 
abilities of executing the thermonuclear threat. 

Asymmetry, in the case of persuasion, derives from the difference between 
the regimes in conflict. A constitutional-pluralist regime tolerates, in fact, the 
existence of parties which are in sympathy with another nation and another 
regime. If it has the right, as a result of its principles, not to tolerate con¬ 
spiracy, the initial stage of rebellion, it has difficulty distinguishing in practice 
between persuasion and subversion, propaganda and conspiracy. Also the 
Western democracies do not forbid the “foreign nationalists” to speak and 
organize, whereas, in the regimes to which the latter give their adherence, no 
one is entitled to plead the cause of the West. 

Yet it would be a mistake to exaggerate the consequences of this “inequal¬ 
ity of opportunity.” The West is present in the Soviet Union, despite the 
radio "jamming.” When the Soviet leaders repeat the formula which Stalin 
launched at the outset of the last Five-Year Plan—overtake the United States 
—they thereby recognize the American lead in production, productivity and 
standard of living. Economists, philosophers, propagandists read the Western 
authors and the dialogue with them continues. Sometimes the excesses of 
official propaganda ultimately provoke curious reactions. Some men, on the 
other side of the Iron Curtain, arrive at an excessive idea of the West’s stan¬ 
dard of living from not believing the caricatured image of capitalism spread 
by the official spokesmen. A regime based on the state monopoly of political 
interpretation is perhaps, in the long run, more vulnerable than a (normally 
functioning) regime which admits dialogue, both interior and exteriorP® 

Reciprocity is still more important in the case of subversion, because re¬ 
prisal resembles challenge, repression resembles subversion, from which re¬ 
sults a striking symmetry of action and reaction, of revolutionaries and con¬ 
servatives. The former wish to dissolve the existing community, uprooting 

EDSee helow, Chap. XVII, Sec. 3. 

dialectics of peace and war 


individuals and integrating them into another community. The clandestine 
organization is the nucleus of this community: when it has managed to gain 
control of administration and justice, the substitution of the rebel community 
for the previous community is accomplished. What can be the objective of 
repression, if not to destroy the clandestine organization, nucleus of the future 
community, and to restore, both materially and morally, the people to the 
pre-existing community? This objective is not unreasonable, declare the the¬ 
oreticians of repression, whatever the sentiments of the people, since only a 
minority is capable of the energy, courage, and sacrifices which clandestine 
action requires and since, without the hard core of activists, the masses in¬ 
cline to passivity. 

The strategy of persuasion—that is, the methods as a whole which are 
intended to modify or consolidate the sentiments, opinions or convictions of 
men—is an element of the strategy of subversion and of repression. The FLN 
nationalists wanted to make the Algerian Moslem believe that he never was 
or would be French, that he could have no other country but Algeria. The 
French officers of “psychological action’’ wanted to make him believe that if 
he had never been entirely French, he would be so henceforth, that the 
Algerian nation proclaimed by the FLN was a deception and would be a 
disaster for him. The dialogue, addressed to the Moslems, between the ad¬ 
herents of Algerian independence and the partisans of French Algeria, was 
transformed into a dialectic of subversion and repression the day the revolu¬ 
tionaries used violence in order to break up the existing community and to 
demonstrate thereby a schism between Moslems and French. At that moment, 
terror, a decisive element of the strategy of deterrence, became one of the 
major weapons of subversion. 

The word terror has been employed, in our era, in at least four contexts: 
by the Germans to designate the bombing of cities, by those seeking to con¬ 
serve an established power (German occupation officials in France or French 
authorities in Algeria) to stigmatize the action of the resistants or nationalists, 
by all authors to characterize one of the aspects of totalitarian regimes, and 
lastly by usage to designate the relation of dual impotence between the two 
great powers armed with thermonuclear bombs. These different uses of the 
same word reveal certain profound characteristics of our period and the re¬ 
lationship of today’s three strategies. 

The bombardment of cities, the “raids of terror” as the German communi¬ 
ques called them, had material objectives. They obliged the enemy to devote 
important resources to active or passive defense, clearing the ruins, maintain¬ 
ing public services. Directly and indirectly, they reduced production. But 
the morale of the populations was a further objective; in naming them “raids 
of terror” the German government denied them a military function, assigning 
as their sole objective the weakening of the collective desire to resist. Whether 
true or false, this interpretation constituted a rejoinder to the intention of 
Allied strategy. The latter may have had as its major objective the morale of 



the population, but it did not admit the fact. By doing so, it would have 
reduced the effectiveness of its method: the Germans were meant to believe 
that the destruction of their cities corresponded to a wartime necessity. The 
German government, on the contrary, had every reason to denounce the raids 
of terror, so that the enemy would appear odious and so that the civilians, 
immediate target of the bombs, would have the desire and the pride to con¬ 
duct themselves like soldiers at the front. 

An action of violence is labeled “terrorist” when its psychological effects 
are out of proportion to its purely physical result. In this sense, the so-called 
indiscriminate acts of revolutionaries are terrorist, as were the Anglo-Ameri¬ 
can zone bombings. The lack of discrimination helps spread fear, for if no 
one in particular is a target, no one can be safe. As a matter of fact, the bomb¬ 
ings were effective in a different way when their object was to destroy means 
of communication or synthetic petroleum factories. Even on the psychological 
level, non-discrimination was probably an error. The destruction of the fac¬ 
tories would have shaken the confidence of the population, whereas the 
accumulating ruins, apparently without military motive, tended to exasperate 
rather than to discourage. Perhaps the urban terrorism would have the same 
effect contrary to revolutionary expectation, were it inflicted on a homoge¬ 
neous population. Among a mixed population, like that of Algeria, the ex¬ 
asperation of one of the communities provokes the schism which the rebels 
demand and which the conservative forces wish to prevent. Indeed, the 
schism between those of French stock and the Algerian Moslems confirms 
the FLN thesis and denies that of the established power. 

In case of “indiscriminate” terrorism, the reaction of those of French stock 
is to regard all Moslems as suspect, if not to take revenge on any of them who 
happen to be caught. If terrorism is not selective, the repressive reprisal is not 
likely to be selective either. As suspects, all the Moslems felt excluded from 
the existing community. Between them and the French, all confidence van¬ 
ished. There is no community without confidence: if men do not know' what 
they can expect from each other, they no longer live in society. All are afraid, 
and each is alone. 

The inevitable errors of repression heighten this disintegration. When too 
many innocents are punished, abstention ceases to seem a protection. The 
activists have no further difficulty recruiting combatants, once the risks of 
legally culpable action do not seem so different from the risks of legally 
innocent passivity. 

Hence we understand the transition from the terror created by the dialectics 
of subversion and repression to the terror erected into a system of government. 
Let us recall Mr. Khrushchev’s speech and its description of the Stalinist 
universe. Why was none of the members of the Politiburo able to stand 
against the despot and bring to an end the crimes committed "under the 
reign of the cult of personality”? Mr. Khrushchev gave as an essential reason 
the fact that the people would not have understood, but he clearly suggests an- 

dialectics of peace and war 


other reason: the highest state officials dared not trust each other. Never has 
Montesquieu’s theory of fear, the principle of despotism, received more strik¬ 
ing confirmation or illustration. When one man commands, without law and 
without rules, fear reduces all men to a common impotence. 

The President of the Council of Soviet Ministers also criticized Stalin for 
having refused to make any distinction between the forms of guilt and for 
having re-established the practice of collective punishment. The opposition 
was wrong, Mr. Khrushchev said, yet they were not all traitors or Gestapo 
agents. Through considering every deviationist as an enemy, honest militants 
are confused with deviationists. Here, too, the outcome was the typical phe¬ 
nomenon of revolutionary periods, the generalization of suspicion. It is not an 
accident that the key concept of every phase of terror is that of suspicion. 
Countless are those, guilty or innocent, who feel a vague threat weighing 
upon them. How could there not be thousands or millions of suspects, since 
the established power is a new one and knows itself to be surrounded by 

Among the suspects, some groups bring themselves to the attention of the 
authorities. They justify suspicion by their very being, aside from any action 
they might take. The ci-devants were suspect in the eyes of the Jacobins. 
Non-Russian citizens had become suspect in the period of the Stalinist mad¬ 
ness, and Mr. Khrushchev has described deportation of whole populations, 
the Ukrainians having escaped such a fate only because of their number. 
There is no longer any degree in crime since the deviationist does not differ 
from the traitor, but collective inequalities exist, certain groups being more 
suspect than others. 

Up to a certain point, subversion and repression are both likely to enter the 
diabolical cycle of strictly political terror. In every war the defeatists are 
accused of preparing the defeat which they announce, and sometimes they 
actually contribute to it. How can the established power help but be weak¬ 
ened by those citizens who question its action or its legitimacy? The French¬ 
man who cast doubt on Algeria frangaise objectively gave assistance to the 
Algerian nationalists. With disregard to his intentions, he was called a traitor, 
since in fact he was aiding the enemy. Similarly, the Moslem who refused to 
obey the FLN abetted the French cause. He was a traitor to his Algerian 
fatherland just as for the Ultras the liberal Frenchman was a traitor to 

Comparing conservatives and revolutionaries, it is the latter who often ex¬ 
tend political terror furthest in the so-called subversive war. Whether it is a 
question of maintaining the clandestine nucleus or of winning enthusiasm, 
persuasion is not enough. The discouraged must be punished by death, for 
discouragement is on the watch for combatants who have only rifles with 
which to face planes and tanks; impulses to negotiate and refusal to obey 
must be punished severely, for the legitimacy of the political organization, 
in exile or in hiding, has only uncertain foundations. “Collaborators” must be 

1 72 


eliminated, since they tend to refute, by their example, the claims for which 
so many men are struggling and dying. When the dialectic of subversion and 
repression is prolonged, the conservative state gradually restrains liberties and 
the revolutionaries multiply acts of violence in order to forge their own com¬ 
munity as much as to dissolve the mixed community upon which they have 
declared war. 

The so-called technique of re-education or brainwashing has developed out 
of the combined strategy of persuasion and subversion. The effort, charac¬ 
teristic of subversion, to break up an existing community and integrate the 
uprooted individuals into another, is no longer exerted clandestinely, but in 
broad daylight, in camps where the captured soldiers are assembled. Here, 
too, the results were asymmetrical: a few American soldiers were converted, 
thousands of Chinese soldiers (who however, had previously served in the 
Nationalist armies) refused repatriation. The technique is not foolproof. In 
Indo-China the captured French soldiers and officers also suffered the ordeals 
of re-education: the goal was not to induce them to become members of the 
Vietnamese community, but to interpret their combat and the entire universe 
in terms of the ideology of their enemies. By imputing to France the sin of im¬ 
perialism and to the Viet-minh the glory of the struggle for freedom, these 
Frenchmen would have disavowed their fatherland and admitted that their 
jailers were right. The effects of this re-education have rarely lasted more than 
a few weeks, yielding, after liberation, to the influence of the national milieu. 

The inspiration of these practices is as old as the attempts at conversion, 
whether the inquisitors want to save souls, or the conquerors or revolution¬ 
aries seek to obtain, from the subjugated or from the ci-devants, the homage 
of a self-styled renunciation. The confessions of the Moscow trials were no 
more than a grotesque and monstrous semblance of conversion. The majority 
of ci-devant Chinese intellectuals probably do not believe in the version of 
their own past which they themselves edited, using the concepts of the vic¬ 
torious party. But belief and skepticism are not always distinguished in the 
soul of militants or prisoners, re-educators or converts. In a sense, Lenin’s 
companions, on the threshold of death, continued to believe that “the party 
was the proletariat” and that Stalin, who was its leader, did not separate him¬ 
self from the proletarian cause. Ideological thought proceeds by chain identi¬ 
fication. It rationalizes, though it is often irrational. Nothing is easier than to 
subscribe to rationalizations, reasonable in themselves, although absurd in 
relation to reality. 

Subversion and repression both result in the technique of re-education, 
since both tend to dissolve a community and forge another one from it. The 
communities, whether destroyed or broken up, in the case of a civil war, are 
ideological, and, in the case of a war of liberation, national. Thus the op¬ 
portunities of either kind of re-education are determined in advance not by 
the quality of its means but by the nature of the men. A Moroccan nation¬ 
alist could never, whatever the length of his stay in a camp and the subtlety 



of the psychotechnicians, be won over to the cause of French greatness. The 
Algerians, genuinely won over by the nationalist cause, are also no longer 
recoverable. Ideas are more malleable than souls: nationality is inscribed in 
souls, not in ideas. 

The cold war is located at the meeting point of two historical series, one 
leading to the development of thermonuclear bombs and ballistic missiles, to 
the incessant increase of ever more destructive weapons and even swifter car¬ 
rying vehicles, the other accentuating the psychological element of the con¬ 
flict at the cost of physical violence. The conjunction of these two series is 
in itself intelligible: the more the instruments of force exceed the human 
scale, the less usable they are. Technological excess brings war back to its 
essence as a trial of wills, either because threat is substituted for action, or 
because the reciprocal impotence of the great powers forbids direct conflicts 
and thereby enlarges the spaces in which clandestine or scattered violence 
flourishes, without too much risk to humanity. 

If peace by terror, the triumph of inventive genius applied to the science 
of destruction, coincides with the age of subversion, historical conjunctions 
are to some degree the cause. The Second World War precipitated the de¬ 
cline of Europe by undermining the prestige and the force of those who, at 
the beginning of the century, believed themselves the masters of the universe. 
It is the Western powers themselves who have returned to the practices which 
the establishment of regular armies and the international law of war had been 
intended to suppress or limit: the mobilization of those who have been called 
soldiers without uniform. From 1914 to 1918, obligatory military service had 
universalized the duty to bear arms, except for those whose work was con¬ 
sidered more useful to the community than their sacrifice. From 1939 to 
1945, universality of participation assumed another form, passive under bomb¬ 
ing, active in the resistance. Civilians were themselves mobilized to oppose 
the occupying powers. Civilian resistance, whether effective or not on the 
military level, bore witness to the stake of the war: to paraphrase Valery’s re¬ 
mark quoted above—man, without being in uniform, was defending his soul. 
The victory of either side signified, or seemed to signify, a conversion of souls 
by force. 

Peace by terror holds a worldwide and monstrous threat over the mass of 
humanity. Subversion imposes upon each individual the obligation to choose 
his fate, his party, his nation. The thermonuclear threat reduces men to a 
kind of collective passivity. The psychological weapon, manipulated by revo¬ 
lutionaries or conservatives, aims at all men because it aims at each of them. 

Taylor &. Francis 

Taylor &. Francis Group 


Determinants and Constants 

Taylor &. Francis 

Taylor &. Francis Group 


The distinction between theory and sociology is, in the social disciplines, 
as easy to make in the abstract as it is difficult to respect in practice. Even in 
the economic sciences, whose theory has been rigorously and systematically 
constructed, the frontiers are often vague. What data, what causes belong to 
pure theory? Which data, which causes should be regarded as external to the 
economic system as such (exogenous)? The answer to these questions varies 
with the period, even within one and the same period, according to the 
economists. In any case, theory must be elaborated in terms of its own con¬ 
cepts and of logic for the problems of sociology to become apparent. 

The first part of this book has permitted us to grasp the concepts with the 
help of which we can interpret the logic of the conduct of international 
relations. In the first three chapters we have analyzed in turn the intercon¬ 
nections of diplomacy and strategy, the factors on which the power of po¬ 
litical units depends, and lastly the objectives that statesmen seek to achieve. 
In the last three chapters we have analyzed not the conduct of international 
relations considered in isolation, with their means and their ends, hut in¬ 
ternational systems. The analysis of these systems has involved two stages. 
First the determination of the characteristics proper to any system (homo¬ 
geneous or heterogeneous, inter-relation of forces and juridical regulation), 
then the description of the two ideal types of systems (multipolar and bipo¬ 
lar). The analysis of systems leads to the dialectic of peace and war—that is, 
to the enumeration of types of peace and types of war, including intermediary 
forms, currently named cold war, or warlike peace, or revolutionary war. 

Theory, thus conceived, renders the study of international relations, as they 
develop, three kinds of service: i. it indicates to the sociologist and the his¬ 
torian the chief elements which a description of the circumstances should 
include (limits and nature of the diplomatic system; ends and means of 
actors, etc.); 2. if the sociologist or historian wants to go beyond description 
to understand the conduct of international relations of a political unit or of 



its leaders, he can utilize theory as a criterion of rationality, comparing the 
action which, according to theory, would have been logical, with that which 
has actually occurred; 3. the sociologist or the historian can. and should seek 
out the causes, internal or external to diplomatic relations, which determine 
the formation, the transformation or the disappearance of international sys¬ 
tems (just as the sociologist of economics seeks the economic or non-economic 
causes which determine the birth or death of the regime: feudal, capitalist 
or socialist). 

We have intentionally, in the preceding paragraph, bracketed the sociolo¬ 
gist and the historian together. Now the former’s task, it seems to me, comes 
between that of the theoretician and that of the historian. The historian in¬ 
terprets, recounts the events of international affairs; he follows the develop¬ 
ment of a political unit, of a diplomatic system, of a civilization considered as 
a singular, unique whole. The sociologist seeks propositions of a certain 
generality, relative either to the action which a certain cause produces upon 
power or upon the objectives of political units, upon the nature of systems, 
upon the types of peace and war, or to regular series or patterns of develop¬ 
ment which characterize the situation without the actors necessarily being 
aware of it. 

Thus theory naturally suggests the enumeration of effect-phenomena, the 
determined factors, for which the sociologist is tempted to seek cause-phe¬ 
nomena, the determinants. These determined factors, following the order of 
the chapters in the preceding part, are: 1. the factors of power (or again, 
what is the actual weight, in each period, of the factors of power? How do 
they combine?); 2. the choice, hy any one state or at any one period, of cer¬ 
tain objectives, rather than certain others; 3. the circumstances necessary or 
favorable to the constitution of one system (homogeneous or heterogeneous, 
multipolar or bipolar) rather than another; 4. the actual character of the vari¬ 
ous hinds of peace and war; 5. the frequency of war; 6. the order, if there is 
one, by which war and peace succeed each other; the pattern, if there is one, 
according to which the fortune—peaceful or warlike—of sovereign units, of 
civilizaticms, of humanity itself fluctuates. These determined factors belong, 
as we see, to two species: either they are the data by which we understand 
the logic in the conduct of international affairs, or else they are total processes 
created by men and perceptible only to the spectator situated at some distance 
from the event. 

To a certain degree, the historian’s task is the study of determined factors 
in the first category, and even of their causes. He alone carries analysis down 
to the singular case, understood and explained in all its details. But the so¬ 
ciologist is in a position to arrive at facts or relations of some generality, if he 
succeeds in dividing the material according to determinants and not effect- 
phenomena. The enumeration of these determinants must be systematic if 
this sociological essay is to be of any use. 

The political units whose peaceful-warlike relations we are analyzing are 



human collectivities, organized on a territorial basis. Men, living in society 
within a delimited space—such are the political units, whose sovereignty is 
identified with collective ownership of a fragment of the globe. A funda¬ 
mental distinction between the two kinds of causes is suggested by this 
formulation: the material or physical causes on the one side, the moral or 
social causes on the other, to use Montesquieu's vocabulary. 

The causes in the first category, which we have just called physical or 
material, are subdivided into three, indicated by the three following ques¬ 
tions: what space do these men occupy? how many men occupy this space? 
what resources are to be found there? Space, population, resources or, if one 
prefers, the names of the disciplines which treat these determinants, geog¬ 
raphy, demography, economy— such would be the titles of the first three 

We may also subdivide the study of the social determinants into three chap¬ 
ters. Not that the latter belong to three species as distinct as the three kinds 
of physical determinants, but, in the case of the social causes, we are seeking 
regular relations and above all typical series (if they exist). We are therefore 
entitled to apportion our inquiry in relation to the historical unities whose 
development would appear, after the fact, as subject to a general law. Now, 
I see three such historical unities of paramount importance in the six thou¬ 
sand years of our history: the nation, the civilization, humanity. 

In the first of these three chapters we study the influence which the regime 
proper to each of the political units exerts upon the conduct of diplomacy or 
strategy. At the same time, we inquire whether the nation is a major deter¬ 
minant, either by its constancy or by its necessary evolution. In the second we 
inquire whether the history of each civilization offers a regular and foresee¬ 
able series of typical phases, each characterized by a way of conducting inter¬ 
national relations, by a determined frequency or style of wars. Finally, in the 
third chapter, we raise the same question apropos of all humanity. Have 
nations and civilizations, has humanity itself had until today—will it have 
tomorrow—an inevitable destiny in peace or in war? 

The same distinction can also be presented in the following manner. First, 
we take the foreign policy of a particular political unit. With the idea in 
mind of describing the causes, of a social nature, which determine this policy, 
we first encounter the community organized according to a particular mode, 
and we must assign appropriate significance to nation and regime. But nation 
and regime are situated within a larger social milieu which we call a civiliza¬ 
tion : the Germany of the Third Reich was an integral part of Europe of the 
twentieth century, itself a temporal period of Western civilization. But this 
civilization in its turn had dealings with other civilizations. To what degree 
do these other civilizations differ from the West with regard to the practice of 
peace and of war? What share must we attribute to the nature of society and 
to the nature of man? Thus, the questions formulated early in the last three 
chapters follow each other logically. 


It does not seem to me that any of the problems which the sociologist must 
ask himself can escape this plan. The first three chapters relate to a spatial 
consideration, the last three to a temporal one. Space, number, and resources 
define the causes or the material means of a policy. Nations, with their re¬ 
gimes, civilizations, human and social nature constitute the more or less 
permanent determinants. In the first three chapters the method is analytical, 
aiming at isolating the action of three causes in which various sociological 
schools have sought an ultimate explanation. In the last three chapters the 
method is often synthetic, since it aims at defining institutions created with 
the participation but without the clear knowledge of the actors. 

Whether it is a question of material or social causes, of spatial or of tem¬ 
poral consideration, our inquiry is oriented toward the present. It is to il¬ 
luminate the distinctive features of our own period that, in each chapter, we 
interrogate the past. 

chapter VII 

On Space 

Every international order, down to our own day, has teen essentially 
territorial. It represents an agreement among sovereignties, the compartmen- 
talization of space. Thus, international law implies a permanent paradox 
which in certain circumstances appears shocking: it recognizes political units 
as subjects of law, as almost the sole subjects of law and, thereby, has to 
ignore individualsJH 

The paradox which provoked Pascal’s irony is, actually, the least of it: 
“Truth on one side of the Pyrenees, error on the other.” International law, 
insofar as it seeks to be in the service of stability, enjoins the cis-PyTeneans 
to regard as truth what it is the duty of the trans-Pyreneans to reject as 
error. The logic of these contradictory obligations is symbolized by the law 
which put an end to the conflict of Catholics and Protestants in Germany: 
cujus regio, hujus religio. Each man must adhere to the religion of his prince. 
States recognize each other’s rights by denying those of persons. 

Even today, too, the United Nations ignores in practice the protests of 
individuals against the oppression of national powers. However improvised 
they may be, states, from the day of the proclamation of their independence, 
act as masters within their own frontierslH They possess a fragment of the 
earth’s crust, with the men and objects thereon. The sea has not been divided 
up and remains the property of all or of none, but air, in turn, has been made 
subject—to a height not yet specified—to the authority of states. 

The crossing of the line that separates the territories of political units is, 
par excellence, a casus helli, proof of aggression. In wartime, space is open 
to the movements of soldiers. Strategy is movement; it is influenced by means 
of transport or communication. The utilization of the terrain is essential to 

0The International Court of the Rights of Man, foreseen in the framework of Europe, 
would theoretically end this paradox. 

IUn the week that followed the proclamation of independence of the former Belgian 
Congo, the government of the new state denounced as “aggression” the intervention of 
Belgian troops trying to protect individuals. 



tactics; the occupation of territory has been, down through the centuries, 
the objective of armies in conflict. The annexation of territories, whether near 
or remote, has traditionally been regarded as the legitimate ambition of 
princes and the consecration of victory. 

Thus, the two typical conditions of international relations, peace and war, 
seem both to require a geographical consideration, an analysis in terms of 
space, of treaties which put an end to the conflicts and combats which have 
precipitated the collapse of the previously established order. The geographical 
study of foreign policy is an integral part of what we ordinarily call human 
geography or political geography: the study of the relations between the en¬ 
vironment and human collectivities, the adaptation of the collectivities to 
the environment, the transformation of the latter by man’s hands, tools and 
mind. But for reasons which we shall indicate, the geographical study of 
international relations has followed a course peculiar to itself and now con¬ 
stitutes a semi-autonomous discipline. 

It is not our intention, in the present chapter, to review the facts ac¬ 
cumulated by the geopoliticians or the theories which they have proposed 
or established, but to specify, by critical or epistemological reflection, the 
nature and limits of geopolitics. 

I. On the Geographical Milieu 

Space may be considered in turn as environment, theater and stake of 
international relations. 

The last of these three concepts is immediately intelligible. Since a state 
is regarded as the owner of a certain space, any fragment of the latter can 
be the stake of conflicts between individuals or groups. An Islamic state 
which has won back its independence, like Tunisia or Morocco, does not will¬ 
ingly leave to French settlers (there by favor of the protectorate) the own¬ 
ership of the lands they are exploiting. The Moslems fled Palestine (in the 
hope of returning) at the beginning of the war which the Israelis call a war 
of liberation. One population has replaced another on a given surface. The 
event illustrates, if illustration is necessary, the fact that the earth has not 
ceased in the twentieth century to be a stake of disputes among collectivities. 

On the other hand, the distinction between environment and theater, not 
common in the literature, requires some explanation. Human geography de¬ 
picts the societies in a given territory, in a given climate; it attempts to 
understand and explain the action which the characteristics of the setting 
have exerted over the life style and social organization at the same time as the 
modifications wrought in the former by the societies which have established 
themselves there. The environment which geography studies and defines is 
both natural and historical. It is concretely defined, involving all the features 
which specialists in fauna, flora, terrain and climate are in a position to discern 
and which the scholar considers instructive. 

Considered as theater, space is no longer concrete but, so to speak, abstract; 



it is simplified, stylized, schematized by the observer’s attention. The battle¬ 
field, which the strategist must comprehend at a single glance, is no longer 
the climatic or geological setting whose singularities the geographer has never 
exhausted, but the framework of a specific activity. The terrain on which a 
soccer game is played can and must be characterized exclusively by the 
qualities (dimensions, hardness, bareness, wetness, etc.) which influence the 
behavior of the players. Similarly, the globe, as a theater of international 
relations, is only defined by the qualities which the actors in international 
relations must take into account. It is insofar as planetary space can be con¬ 
ceived as the schematic frame of international politics that geopolitics offers 
an original and fascinating insight into diplomatic history. Because the frame¬ 
work never entirely determines the playing of the game, the geopolitical 
perspective, always a partial one, is easily corrupted into a justificatory 

Let us first consider space as a concrete environment. What is the nature 
of the information which geographical study affords us concerning the life 
of human collectivities in general, about international relations in particular? 
One proposition, quite a commonplace one, comes to mind at once. The virtue 
of geographical study is, first and foremost, to dissipate the illusions or 
legends of a determinism of climate or relief. The deeper and more precise 
the study, the fewer regular relations of causality it discovers. 

Let us remember the boldness of Montesquieu’s formulas: 

“These fertile provinces are always of a level surface, where the inhabi¬ 
tants are unable to dispute against a stronger power; they are then obliged to 
submit; and when they have once submitted, the spirit of liberty cannot re¬ 
turn; the wealth of the country is a pledge of their fidelity. But in moun¬ 
tainous districts, as they have but little, they may preserve what they have. 
The liberty they enjoy, or, in other words, the government they are under, 
is the only blessing worthy of their defense. It reigns, therefore, more in 
mountainous and rugged countries than in those that nature seems to have 
favored 0 

"We have already observed that great heat enervates the strength and 
courage of men, and that in cold climates they have a certain vigor of body 
and mind, which renders them patient and intrepid, and qualifies them for 
arduous enterprises. . . . We ought not, then, to be astonished that the 
cowardice of people in hot climates has almost always rendered them slaves; 
and that the bravery of those in cold climates has enabled them to maintain 
their liberties. This is an effect which springs from a natural causeP 

“The barrenness of the Attic soil established there a democracy; and the 
fertility of that of Lacedaemonia an aristocratic constitution.® 

1 L’Esprit des his, XVIII, 2 , 

a Ud., xvn, 2. 

01 bid., XVIII, 1 . 



Today, no one believes that the courage or cowardice of peoples is a func¬ 
tion of the climate, that the political destiny of Sparta and Athens was 
established in advance upon the soil occupied by each of the two city- 
states, that notions of good or poor soil, of fertility or sterility suffice to define 
a territory, that all mountains belong to one and the same category, even all 
plains. At the risk of being accused of a futile pedantry, let us specify the 
reasons, both of meaning and of method, which make Montesquieu’s proposi¬ 
tions unacceptable. 

The relations suggested between climate and way of life implicitly suppose 
a heredity of acquired characteristics. Biologists have made it impossible for 
us to believe in such a heredity. That climate is favorable or unfavorable to 
activity in general, or even to a specific activity, is not impossible for us to 
admit; but the influence which the climate exerts over the mode of expression 
of hereditary dispositions is never such that whole groups—peoples or races— 
is forever marked by virtues or vices, whether glorious or detestable. Climate 
does not make men cowardly or courageous. 

The term employed by Montesquieu as causal is never defined with a 
sufficient rigor for us to be able to attribute to it a constant effect. The 
further our knowledge advances, the more such crude notions disintegrate. 
There are too many different kinds of heat and cold, of dryness or humidity, 
of plains or mountains, for a single type of social organization (or even a 
single type of habitation) to accompany of necessity a general type of climate 
or terrain. 

Even if we avoid the error of making too vague a definition of the supposed 
cause, we cannot assume a true geographical determinism. However precisely 
defined the natural situation, we cannot thereby conclude that it will forbid 
men to live there differently from the way they do now. If the situation is 
singular, unique, how can we show that the reaction of men could not have 
been other than it has been in the past? Regularity constitutes the only proof 
of the necessity of the concomitance. Further, the impossibility of proof 
confirms the direct observation of the margin of initiative which nature leaves 
to man. Even when the constraint of nature is most burdensome, for example 
in the case of the Eskimos, we are disposed to admire the intelligence with 
which these archaic societies have adapted themselves to difficult circum¬ 
stances—that is to say, have survived. But we do not conclude that this mode 
of adaptation was the only one possible. 

Furthermore, non-determination by the natural environment has nothing 
in common with indeterminism. A geographical determinism (or any other 
theory which affirms the determination of human societies, or of some aspect 
of human societies, by one cause of a given kind) assumes a philosophy of 
the object, not the general principle of determinism. This latter principle does 
not imply at all that, in a given climate or on a given terrain, all societies 
present certain characteristics. It suffices that the way of life and the modes of 
organization be a function of history at the same time as of geography, that 


l8 5 

they be affected by many causes, not by the action of the natural environment 
alone, for geography itself to contribute to the refutation of what was once 
called geographical determinism. 

These remarks suggest the following formula: it is always possible to 
understand the relationship between a man or a collectivity and the geograph¬ 
ical environment. It is rarely (or never) possible to explain it if the explana¬ 
tion requires that the relation established be necessary. Understanding is, so 
to speak, guaranteed a priori: whether or not the reaction to the environment 
has been more or less intelligent, it remains understandable, since it has not 
involved the death of the group. If it had involved the death of the group, it 
would also have remained understandable: the interpreter would attempt to 
discover the beliefs, obligations or prohibitions which prevented these human 
beings from taking the measures indispensable to their safety. 

Does this mean that the geographical environment, whether physical or 
historical, is never the cause of social phenomena? Such a deduction would be 
false. Natural phenomena have been, during the prehistoric phase, the cause 
—sometimes almost a direct cause—of human events. The migrations of our 
ancestors were influenced if not determined by modifications of climate. 
Perhaps, as Toynbee observes)®] quoting the descriptions of Gordon Childe, 
geography launched the first challenge taken up by men in creating a civiliza¬ 

“While northern Europe was covered in ice as far as the Harz, and the 
Alps and the Pyrenees were capped with glaciers, the Arctic high pressure 
deflected southward the Atlantic rainstorms. The cyclones that today traverse 
Central Europe then passed over the Mediterranean Basin and the Northern 
Sahara and continued, undrained by Lebanon, across Mesopotamia and 
Arabia to Persia and India. The parched Sahara enjoyed a regular rainfall, 
and farther east the showers were not only more bountiful than today but 
were distributed over the whole year. . . . We should expect in North 
Africa, Arabia, Persia and the Indus Valley parklands and savannahs, such 
as flourish today north of the Mediterranean. . . . While the mammoth, 
the woolly rhinoceros and the reindeer were browsing in France and 
Southern England, North Africa was supporting a fauna that is found today 
on the Zambesi in Rhodesia. . . . 

"The pleasant grasslands of North Africa and Southern Asia were natu¬ 
rally as thickly populated by man as the frozen steppes of Europe, and it is 
reasonable to suspect that in this favorable and indeed stimulating environ¬ 
ment, man would make greater progress than in the ice-bound north.tD 

But after the close of the Ice Age, the Afro-Asian area began to experience 
a profound physical change in the direction of aridity; and simultaneously, 
two or three civilizations arose in an area which had previously, like all the 

0 Cf. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. I. 

HiV. Gordon Childe, New Light on the Most Ancient East, New York, 1934, Chap. II. 



rest of the inhabited world, been occupied solely by primitive societies of the 
paleolithic order. Our archeologists encourage us to look upon the drying-up 
of Afro-Asia as a challenge. Our response was the genesis of these civilizations. 

“Now we are on the brink of the great revolution, and soon we shall en¬ 
counter men who are masters of their own food supply through possession of 
domesticated animals and the cultivation of cereals. It seems inevitable to 
connect that revolution with the crisis produced by the melting of the north¬ 
ern glaciers and the consequent contraction of the Arctic high pressure over 
Europe and diversion of the Atlantic rainstorms from the South Medi¬ 
terranean Zone to their present course across Central Europe. 

“This event would certainly tax the ingenuity of the inhabitants of the 
former grassland zone to the utmost. 

“Faced with the gradual desiccation consequent upon the re-shift north¬ 
ward of the Atlantic cyclone belt as the European glaciers contracted, three 
alternatives were open to the hunting populations affected. They might move 
northward or southward with their prey, following the climatic belt to which 
they were accustomed; they might remain at home eking out a miserable 
existence on such game as could withstand the drought; or they might- 
still without leaving their homeland—emancipate themselves from depen¬ 
dence on the whims of their environment by domesticating animals and tak¬ 
ing to agriculture.’!] 

Have climatic phenomena, for five or six thousand years—that is, during 
the so-called historical phase of civilizations—been the immediate cause of 
events, greatness and decline of peoples, migrations provoked by drought and 
resulting in vast conquests? This is the opinion of several authorsJH who be¬ 
lieve in the climatic oscillations and in the periods of drought in Central 
Asia. The Spanish historian Olagiie is also convinced that the diminution of 
rainfall has been one of the direct and principal causes of the Spanish deca- 
dence[i£] Other authors deny the fact with the same assurance: 

“The desertification of Spain, strictly linked to human intervention,” writes 
M. Roger HeimJlII “probably originates in the seasonal shifting of sheep pas¬ 
turage, which Ferdinand and Isabella considerably intensified to increase their 
personal fortune from profits derived from the European wool market, at 
the same time that the direct destruction of the forest lands was increased 
by the repeated cutting of large trees for the invincible Armada. Thus, for 
five thousand years, no appreciable climatic change, no great natural fluctua¬ 
tions on the surface of the globe, and particularly in the Mediterranean 
basin, but instead inadequacy of agricultural methods, deforestation, political 
instability, causing the abandonment of techniques necessary to farming in a 

Hhbid., Chap. III. 

HOFor example, Ellworth Huntington in The Pulse of Asia, 1907. 

EUlgnacis Olagiie, Histoire d'Espagne, Paris, 1957. 

EH Director of tlie Museum national d’fiistoire naturelle, in Le Figaro litteraire, No¬ 
vember 21, 1959. 


dry country, all of which, today, are continually aggravated in their con¬ 
sequences by the demographic factor." 

The uncertainty is related to the primary or secondary character of climatic 
change. For some interpreters, climatic oscillation is a primary factor, having 
nothing to do with man, and is the origin of important events. For others, it 
results from human error or negligence. Exhaustion of lands and deforesta¬ 
tion create the geographical environment in which the civilization, incapable 
of correcting its own faults, will ultimately perish. 

Whichever interpretation we choose—we have no qualifications for decid¬ 
ing the controversy—such examples help us to distinguish and to specify 
the modes of environmental causality. We speak of the historical causality^ 
of a natural phenomenon when the latter, without being imputable to human 
action, brutally modifies the life of a collectivity: the destruction of Lisbon 
by an earthquake and of Pompeii by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius belong 
to this category. The same is true if drought, not imputable to men, has 
gradually ruined Spain. But this latter example has quite another bearing be¬ 
cause it reminds us of the invisible and permanent influence of environment 
on human societies. 

Mankind is a species which, at least during its historical period, has in¬ 
cessantly transformed its conditions of existence. The environment is dif¬ 
ferent, even when it has not changed, if the collectivities acquire other tools 
to develop it. The physical data change in relation to scientific knowledge 
and technological instruments. In this sense the geographical environment, 
taken concretely, prepared by nature and altered by labor, shares in historical 

But, in each period, this environment, as produced by the conjunction of 
nature and humanity at a certain point in its evolution, influences the destiny 
of collectivities. It is alternately inducement and limit, favorable or hostile to 
the efforts of societies, lenient or merciless to their weaknesses. 

Let us suppose that the river civilizationspl those of the Nile, the Tigris 
and Euphrates, and the Yellow River, owed their rise in part to the chal¬ 
lenge presented by the necessity of utilizing the spate periods, of regulating 
the course of the waters, of insuring the irrigation of cultivable lands. The 
civilizations of hydraulic engineering, as a result of these requirements for 
collective survival, present specific characteristics, the very ones which define 
“the Asiatic mode of production,” one of the regimes Marx discusses in his 
introduction to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. But 
such civilizations are more vulnerable than those which prosper under tem¬ 
perate climates and which allow individuals and small groups to survive on 
their own. The history of France would be less continuous if the political 

EUln both the formal sense, as a unique sequence, and the material sense, as an event 
relating to the development of human societies. 

EUcf. Karl A. Wittfogel’s very important book, Oriental Despotism, New Haven, 1957. 



upheavals, not infrequent during the last thousand years, had involved, along 
with the disorganization of the administration, the wrecking of the appara¬ 
tus indispensable for agricultural production. When the civilization survives 
only by annually renewing its victory over a rebellious nature, men accept a 
stricter discipline and even then the total surrender to a state is sometimes 
not enough to preserve them from a catastrophe. 

The environment, as historically constituted by the conjunction of physical 
resources and technical means, is far more effective at inducing a determined 
organization to act than at punishing errors or negligence, and fixes the limit 
that the number of collectivities cannot exceed. Even today, despite the 
growing independence which our species is in the process of acquiring in 
relation to the physical environment, the distribution of the human masses 
appears not strictly determined, but only influenced, by climatic conditions. 
The various regions of the globe have not been equally propitious to the 
development of civilizations. Whatever the state of techniques of production, 
the number of men capable of living on a given surface remains dependent 
on physical data, soil, relief, climate. Neither isolable nor specifically deter¬ 
minant, the action of the geographical environment is exerted continually, 
without our being able to measure its limits. Is it possible to construct, deep 
in the heart of Africa, societies of the industrial type? Perhaps we are all 
inclined to underestimate the weight with which nature still weighs, even 
in our age, upon human societies. 

The preceding analysis, valid for political geography as a whole, applies 
a fortiori to environmental explanations of international relations. The 'posi¬ 
tion (die Lage) is, in effect, essentially historical, since it depends on cir¬ 
cumstances which obey the law of change (techniques of movement, trans¬ 
portation, combat, effective circulation of men and merchandise, relation of 
forces between political units in the same zone, etc.). Once the Islamic 
conquests closed the Mediterranean to commercial traffic, Marseilles no longer 
had the same status. The situation of a nation on the physical map is, itself, 
immutable. But it is at most one cause among others; it suggests certain 
actions, it offers a framework of possibilities. Perhaps it is subtly present in 
all centuries, in all aspects of the national destiny. But it is expressed in a 
position which changes with the rise and ruin of states, in institutions which 
mark, in each period, the ideas, the dreams, the tools and the weapons of 

We are sometimes tempted—and even an A. Cournot has not resisted this 
temptation—to read the destiny of the European nations on the map after 
the fact. History, in the long run, has effaced the traces of accidents and 
favored the fulfillment of the law promulgated by geography. Spain, France 
and Great Britain have definitively assumed the dimensions that corresponded 
to the natural order. As a matter of fact, Spain has not always been separated 
from the current of European civilization by the Pyrenees; for a time her 
armies played the leading role in Europe. Dynastic unions united lands that 



geography had separated, hut geography has not given the provinces of Spain 
the homogeneity presented hy the provinces of France. Was French unity 
“predetermined” as some today imagine? Such a proposition should be at the 
least modified by reservations. The frontiers of the pre carre were and re¬ 
main contested. The spread of a single language, the creation of a national 
community among Flemings, Bretons, Provencals and Beamais might perhaps 
have been facilitated by geography: how easy it would be to find the “under¬ 
lying causes,” had this unification not been achieved! 

It would be paradoxical to deny that the configuration of Switzerland or 
France, or the island situation of Great Britain, have constantly influenced 
the diplomacy of these nations down through the centuries. Switzerland owes 
to its geographical situation a defensive power incommensurate with the 
number of its inhabitants or the resources of its economy. But it required 
historical circumstances to create first the confederation, then the Helvetian 
federation, and then that the latter should adopt the policy of neutrality 
indispensable to the maintenance of its unity as long as the great neighboring 
nations were fighting. Still the history of the Swiss cantons—their capacity 
to stand up to aggressors, to maintain their independence, to constitute a 
neutral state and to make that neutrality respected—probably owes more to 
geography than that of any other nation of the Old World. 

Similarly, it is easy to speculate on the parallelism between the double 
vocation—continental and maritime—of France and the hesitation of her 
diplomacy. With a northern frontier open to invasions and quite close to the 
capital, France was inevitably obsessed by the concern for an always pre¬ 
carious security. Situated at the western extremity of the small cape of Asia, 
she could not ignore the call of the sea and the lure of remote expeditions. 
She divided her forces between a diplomacy of continental hegemony (or 
of security) and a diplomacy of an overseas empire. She did not succeed com¬ 
pletely in either direction. 

It is apropos of England that analysis usefully indicates the limits of a 
geographical interpretation, in itself convincing and apparently irresistible. 
It is obvious that England’s fortune is inconceivable without her island situa¬ 
tion. The security from aggression which neither Venice nor Holland had 
enjoyed to the same degree, the importance of her resources of food, the wheat 
fields of the south, and subsequently her coal reserves gave English diplomacy 
a freedom of action unknown to the continental states. To a degree, England 
owed her defensive power to nature. She could keep apart from the 
European conflicts, take sides with the momentarily weaker party, decide the 
issue by the intervention, at the opportune moment, of an expeditionary force, 
and reserve the bulk of her forces for the demands of naval supremacy and 
imperial expansion. 

This textbook stereotype is not untrue, though it simplifies and schematizes. 
England has taken advantage of its insular position in order to conduct a 
policy which would have been forbidden to a state otherwise situated. This 



policy was not, all the same, determined by the situation. The latter left men 
a marginal autonomy: it offered them a choice among several decisions. The 
choice was not accidental and it is not unintelligible, but it was not imposed 
by the natural environment. 

Abstractly, a collectivity ruling the whole of an island may be tempted 
either by withdrawal (breaking off relations with the world) or by an active 
diplomacy. The latter, in its turn, may be oriented in three directions: con¬ 
tinental conquest, overseas expeditions, voluntary neutrality. Each of these 
four policies has been adopted, at various times, by one or another of the 
two island states, Great Britain and Japan. 

When Japan achieved her unity in the seventeenth century, she did not 
take advantage of it by undertaking conquest elsewhere. On the contrary, 
during the Tokugawa era, the shoguns’ only ambition was to perfect, so to 
speak, their island isolation. The ideal of a stable society and a refined civiliza¬ 
tion encouraged them to withdraw their flourishing empire from barbarian 
contact, from exchanges with the West. 

After the Meiji reform, Japan reversed her attitude, but did not cease to 
vacillate between the two paths accessible to the expansion of an island 
state: continental or maritime conquest. Lacking the resolution or the capac¬ 
ity to choose, Japan ultimately found herself in a war with China, which 
the Japanese armies vainly attempted to occupy, and with the United States 
and Great Britain, maritime powers, protecting the islands (Philippines, In¬ 
donesia). England, historically speaking, conducted her enterprises more ra¬ 
tionally. The phase of continental ventures ended with the Hundred Years’ 
War. Once the union of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland was 
achieved, Great Britain acted, in most cases, as if she understood the logic of 
European equilibrium, and turned her ambition toward the seas, the fleet, 
commerce and the Empire. 

Since 1945 Japan and Great Britain, drawn closer to the continents by 
technical progress and outclassed by land powers, have both been integrated 
into the United States system of alliance. Both island states count on Amer¬ 
ican protection, on the support of the dominant naval power in order to insure 
their security. Great Britain makes this choice virtually without hesitation, 
by reason of the close relationship of English and American civilizations. 
Japanese public opinion, on the other hand, is far from being unanimous, 
so artificial does the rupture of exchanges with China appear. Reduced to 
secondary rank, could Japan not be neutral without being isolated as in the 
times of the shoguns, without becoming a satellite of the continental states? 
Even in England the question has been raised, at least in the indirect form 
of opposition to the American bases and thermonuclear armament. 

The island situation leads to a schematic analysis of diplomatic possibili¬ 
ties; it does not, of itself, establish causal relations. An island state is not 
constrained to be a naval power. It was in the sixteenth century that the 
English truly became a nation of sailors. The Japanese have never become 


I 9 I 

such a nation. They have remained to the end a land people, reluctant to 
emigrate, reluctant to entrust their fortunes to the uncertainty of the waves. 
The island situation is a challenge, not a constraint. 

2. The Mackinder Patterns 

In the preceding pages we have gradually shifted from the first term to 
the second, from environment to theater. Space, we have said, is regarded 
as a theater, and no longer as an environment, when the observer takes into 
account only certain characteristics, namely those that are supposed to influ¬ 
ence a specific behavior. For instance, the geopolitician sees the geographical 
environment as “the terrain of diplomatic and military interplay.” The en¬ 
vironment is simplified into an abstract framework, the populations trans¬ 
formed into actors, making entrances and exits on the world stage. 

How much concrete reality does the geopolitician retain in the designs 
of the stage and of diplomatic-strategic actors? The conduct of foreign affairs 
appears instrumental to the geopolitician, the use of certain means toward 
certain ends. Resources—men, tools, weapons—are mobilized by states with 
a view to security or expansion. Yet lines of expansion, like threats to se¬ 
curity, are indicated in advance on the world map if, at least, the geographer 
can fix his attention on the natural data on which the prosperity and power 
of nations depend. Geopolitics combines a geographical schematization of 
diplomatic-strategic relations with a geographic-economic analysis of resources, 
■with an interpretation of diplomatic attitudes as a result of the way of life 
and of the environment ( sedentary, nomadic, agricultural, seafaring'). These 
too-general formulas will be clarified and illuminated by an example. In our 
century the Englishman Mackinder has probably contributed more than any¬ 
one else to the popularity of geopolitics. Fie originated several of the ideas 
which the German school adopted in the service of imperialism. The brief, 
compact books of Sir Halford Mackinder facilitate epistemological analysis, 
which is our true object. 

In 1904 appeared the essay called “The Geographical Pivot of FIistory .’0 
Here Mackinder first explained the central theme of his thought. In 1905 
another article, “Manpower as a Measure of National and Imperial Strength” 
(in the National Review), accentuated the decisive influence of productivity 
(or output of human labor). The principal book which gathers together the 
essentials of Mackinder’s thought appeared in 1919: Democratic Ideals and 
Reality. A quarter of a century later, in 1943, Foreign Affairs published an 
article which assumed the character of a testament, "The Round World and 
the Winning of Peace.” The same geographical designs were employed to 

[lilPublished in the Geographical Journal in 1907; the communication to the Royal 
Geographical Society of London, which served as the basis of the article, dates from 




deal with the problems which would come up at the end of the Second 
World War, after having been vainly utilized at the end of the First. 

Probably the best method of summarizing our author is to start with what 
I have called the schematisme geographique, in other words, to summarize 
the two concepts of World Island and Heartland. Ocean covers nine twelfths 
of the globe. A continent, or the total of the three continents Asia, Europe 
and Africa, covers two twelfths. The rest, the last twelfth, is represented 
by smaller islands, North and South America and Australia. In this planetary 
diagram the Americas occupy, in relation to the World Island, a position 
comparable to that of the British Isles in relation to Europe. 

The second concept, that of the Heartland or of the pivot-region, has not 
always been defined in the same termsP! The uncertainty as to the exact 
delimitation of this enormous zone does not extend to the concept itself. 
The Heartland covers both the northern part and the interior of the Eurasian 
land mass. It extends from the Arctic Coast to the deserts of Central Asia. 
It has as its western frontier the isthmus between the Baltic and the Black 
seas, perhaps between the Baltic and the Adriatic. 

The Heartland is characterized by three characteristics of physical geog¬ 
raphy which have a political bearing and which are combined without coin¬ 
ciding. It constitutes the largest flat area on the surface of the globe: the 
plain of Asia, the steppes of European Russia which extend across Germany 
and the Low Countries through the Ile-de-France and Paris, heart of the 
West. Several of the world’s greatest rivers flow through it either to the 
Arctic Sea or to inland seas (the Caspian, the Aral). Lastly, it is a grassland 
favorable to the mobility of populations and warriors, whether on camels or 
horses. The Heartland, at least in its eastern section, has been closed to the 
intervention of naval power. It opened a way to the incursions of horsemen 
riding westward. 

On the basis of this reading of the simplified map, Mackinder’s three 
famous propositions can be understood. Anyone controlling Eastern Europe 
controls the Heartland. Anyone controlling the Heartland controls the World 
Island. Anyone controlling the World Island controls the world. These are 
the three propositions, in a vulgarized form, which have enjoyed most suc¬ 
cess. Through the German geopoliticians, Hitler learned and was perhaps 
inspired by them. A theory which claimed to be scientific was transformed 
into an ideology justifying conquests. 

The theory itself is constructed, on the basis of geographical design, by 
the simultaneous consideration of a constant element (the land-sea, conti¬ 
nental-seafaring opposition) and of three variable elements (the technique 
of movement on land and on sea, the population and resources utilizable in 
the rivalry of nations, and the extension of the diplomatic field). Writing at 
the beginning of this century, when England’s fortunes seemed extraordinary 

H 3 I use here the terms of the article published in Foreign Affairs. 



and invulnerable, Mackinder looked back and ahead, toward past centuries 
in order to discover the necessary conditions for the victory of the island 
state, toward the future to discover whether the circumstances to which 
England owed most of her greatness were destined to disappear. 

There is every reason to regard as fundamental, throughout history, the 
opposition of land and sea, of continental power and seafaring power. The 
two elements seem to symbolize two ways of life for men, incite in them two 
typical attitudes. The land belongs to someone, to the landlord, individual 
or collective; the sea belongs to all because it belongs to no one. The empire 
of continental powers is inspired by the spirit of possession; the empire of 
maritime powers is inspired by the spirit of commerce. It is not always 
benevolent (let us recall the domination of Athens, as Thucydides describes 
it); it is rarely closed. 

If land and water represent the two elements in conflict on the global 
stage, it is because international relations are, in Clausewitz’s formula, ex¬ 
change and communication. Wars create relations between individuals and 
collectivities, but in a manner different from those of commerce. Nomads, of 
both land and water, horsemen and sailors, are the builders of the two types of 
empire, the professionals of the two kinds of combat. Movement and maneu¬ 
ver have not played the same role on land and at sea. The desire to reduce 
the hazards of battle to the minimum, the strategist’s effort to muster his 
forces on a battlefield and to offer the enemy a continuous front have no 
equivalent on the ocean. Before the technical discoveries which multiplied 
the means of communication, to venture upon a maritime career was to 
accept the uncertainty of fate, to rely on improvisation, on the mastery of the 
unforeseeable, through the individual’s initiative. On the eve of the battle of 
Salamis the Athenians took the whole city into their vessels; in 1940 the 
French denied that France could be elsewhere than on the soil of la fatrie: 
a double decision symbolic of the state which chose water and the state 
which will never separate itself from land. 

Mackinder is aware of this dualism, but it is the destiny of his country 
which fosters and orients his inquiry. From one point of view of diplomacy 
and strategy the insular position exists only after political unification of the 
island. On the international level a power becomes insular the day when it 
no longer has any land neighbor. The British Isles are unified, the Continent 
is divided: such has been the contrast which was chiefly the cause of the 
United Kingdom’s imperial greatness. Yet this contrast is perhaps not an 
eternal one: not that the unity of the United Kingdom is threatened, but the 
unity of the Continent is no longer inconceivable. 

From his study of the past Mackinder drew two ideas, still valid in 
twentieth-century circumstances. The first, the most obvious but perhaps 
the most misunderstood, is that the pitiless law of numbers also functions in 
the struggle between maritime power and continental power. A maritime 
power will not survive, despite the qualities of its fleet and its sailors, if it 



is confronted by a rival possessing material and human resources which are 
superior to its own. The second lesson, still clearer, is that a maritime power 
can be conquered on land as well as at sea. When the continental power has 
seized all the bases, there is no longer any room for the maritime power. The 
sea becomes a closed sea, subject to a land empire, which no longer needs 
to maintain a navy: e.g., the Mediterranean under the Roman Empire. The 
British Empire risks destmction, Mackinder concludes, if a continental state 
accumulates overwhelming resources or if the network of British bases es¬ 
tablished on islands and peninsulas around the Eurasian land mass is de¬ 
stroyed or occupied from the land. 

For centuries Great Britain has profited by circumstances: Europe was 
divided, the security of the British Isles guaranteed; the latter possessed re¬ 
sources, in raw materials and in men, on the scale of the resources of the 
rival states; the other continents were without military force. The English 
geographer perceives at the beginning of the century that the two variables 
are shifting in a direction unfavorable to the maritime power. 

Between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries, maritime mobility 
was superior to land mobility. Yet Mackinder is struck by two almost con¬ 
temporary events, the Boer War and the Manchurian War. Russia’s capacity 
to conduct a large-scale war ten thousand kilometers from her bases, at the 
end of a single railroad, seems to him more striking than England’s capacity to 
supply the South African Expeditionary Corps by sea. The internal-combus¬ 
tion engine was soon added to the contribution of the railroad. Spengler's 
formula, that the steam horse will reopen the era of great invasions, closed 
since the days of the Asian cavalcades, might have been utilized by Mackinder 
who, in two chapter^!! on the seafaring prospect and the land prospect, 
reviews the empires of past centuries: empires of horsemen, Scythians, 
Parthians, Huns, Arabs, Mongols, Turks, Cossacks, coming from plateaus, 
steppes or deserts, and empires of seafaring peoples, from Crete and Athens 
down to Venice and England. 

Now, at the very moment when land mobility prodigiously increases, the 
Heartland is gaining possession of the material and human resources nec¬ 
essary to world empire. Eastern Europe is the hinge zone where this Heart¬ 
land touches its marginal regions, open on the ocean, where Slavs and Ger¬ 
mans meet and mingle. In 1905 and in 1919, Mackinder feared that the 
Germans, conquering the Slavs, would be in a position to unify the Heart¬ 
land into a single sovereign territory and thereby outclass the forces of the 
United Kingdom. He foresaw the economy of great space which would 
serve as a base to the land power, certain to prevail, by sheer weight of 
numbers, over the maritime power. It is in relation to this historical cir- 

EUln Democratic Ideals and Reality. 



cumstance that the three positions reviewed above are explained and assume 
their partial truth: anyone controlling Eastern Europe controls the Heart¬ 
land, hence the World Island, hence the universe. 

From this analysis the author had drawn consequences, particularly in 
1919, which he offered to the attention of those who were writing the peace 
treaty. As an adviser to kings, Mackinder reread in i960 seems to have 
suffered the worst disgrace: he was heeded by statesmen and mocked by 
events. Since in 1919 the freedom of peoples and the greatness of England 
were threatened by an eventual unification of the Heartland, it is essential to 
prevent this unification—that is, the German domination of the Slavs (in 
1945, the Slavic domination of the Germans). To this end, the geographer, 
combining the British tradition with his impersonal (and professional) equa¬ 
tion, proposed constituting a belt of independent states between the two great 
powers, one of which could not subject the other without breaking up global 
equilibrium. So it was: the small independent states first gave the two great 
powers the occasion to unite in order to divide the zone of separation, and 
subsequently become the battlefield on which the Russian and German armies 
met, and finally fell to the land power which, for the first time, occupied 
the Heartland with a large garrison and an advanced technolog)'. 

Is the history of the last forty years of a nature to disqualify the geog¬ 
rapher? One historian, belonging to a traditional school, Jacques Bainville, 
had more accurately anticipated the consequences of the Versailles Treaty. 
The independent states between (Soviet) Russia and (so-called eternal) Ger¬ 
many seemed to him, from their origin, incapable of lasting because they 
were incapable of uniting. Poland, Rumania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, all so- 
called national states with, in fact, powerful minorities of dubious loyalty, 
would never offer a common front to German revisionism and to Slavic 
revisionism, which were in the last analysis opposed, but if need be prepared, 
to go part of the way together. 

The geographer’s answer, it seems to me, might be a double one. No 
territorial treaty, he might say, is maintained if the conquering states, who 
have imposed it upon the states now conquered, dissociate themselves from 
it or weaken it by their disagreement. The Versailles Treaty, it is true, was 
precarious, the two great continental powers being hostile to it. But the 
Western nations had been given the means to act if Germany attempted to 
destroy the established order: Germany was disarmed, the left bank of the 
Rhine, first occupied by French troops, was subsequently to remain without 
defense. The authors of the treaty were less responsible for the catastrophes 
than the statesmen who had to apply it. Germany had been beaten by a 
coalition which included the maritime states. Great Britain and the United 
States. American isolationism and English hesitation left to France alone a 
task which exceeded her forces: if the Versailles Treaty collapsed, it was not 
because it was intrinsically worse than any other with regard to morality or 



politics; it was because the states which should have been its guardians 
deserted their task. 

The other answer might be formulated as a question: What should have 
been done? Destroy the German unity, as one school of French nationalism 
proposed? None believed in the restoration of les Allemagnes. Save the dual 
monarchy? It no longer resisted when the peace conference convened: the 
diplomats took cognizance of its utter disintegration. Perhaps a peace, 
whether separate or general, concluded two years earlier might have given a 
new lease of life to the anachronistic unity of Central Europe under the 
Habsburg dynasty. By 1918 it was too late. 

In truth, the geopolitical outlook, Mackinder’s like the rest, allowed the 
problem to be expressed, but dictated no solution. To prevent Germany or 
Russia from achieving the unity of the Heartland from Eastern Europe, 
such was the first requirement of global equilibrium, the condition of the 
freedom of peoples. How forestall this unity which German imperialism 
risked creating either by its victory or defeat? The belt of small states, 
separating the two great powers, was a method that was not absurd, though 
it has failed. The failure, even in retrospect, does not definitively condemn 
the idea, because the British and Americans had, since 1920, forgotten the 
most obvious lesson of the hostilities: no European order could survive with¬ 
out the active participation of the British and Americans united with the 
continental democracies. 

This is the lesson, in any case, that Mackinder, writing in 1943, drew 
from the catastrophe. The war was not yet over: the British geographei 
could not clearly point to today’s ally as tomorrow’s enemy. But he obviously 
saw the danger of the unification of the Heartland by Slavs ultimately 
victorious over the Germans. The Heartland garrison is henceforth numerous. 
Russia has twenty times the area, four times the population of France. But 
her open frontier is only four times that of France. This time it w'ould nc 
longer be Mongols or the horsemen of central Asia, but tanks and cannons 
that would stream westward. The motorized conquerors no longer lack any 
of the instruments of Western technology. Whether the danger comes from 
the Germans or the Russians, it comes from the Heartland; it can no longei 
be warded off by alliances among the peoples who inhabit the marginal 
zones of the Eurasian land mass and the peoples of the islands, British 01 
Americans. The geographer sees forming before his eyes, on the map, the 
Atlantic Alliance with a bridgehead in France, an air base outside Europe 
(the British Isles, comparable to Malta in the Mediterranean), an arsena 
and reserves across the Atlantic. 

But perhaps the prospect is different from this point on. The objective ol 
the maritime powers is no longer to keep Germans or Slavs from controlling 
the Heartland by a single domination: the Russian army, established in Ber 
lin, is determined to remain there. The Continental empire covering the 
Heartland is achieved. Does Mackinder’s third proposition, anyone controlling 



the Heartland controls the universe, authorize us to foresee the outcome of 
the present conflict? We cannot answer such a question without specifying 
the mode of geopolitical judgments. 

3. From Geographical Design to Ideologies 

Mackinder himself does not hesitate to speak of geographical causation in 
universal history. But in fact, there is no trace of geographical causality, 
in the strict sense of the word, in his general outlook on universal history. 

Of course, he starts from geographical facts, that is, the unequal dis¬ 
tribution of land and water on the surface of the planet, the allotment of 
mineral wealth and agricultural resources across the various regions of the 
globe, the unequal density of population on the various continents, depend¬ 
ing on the climate, the relief, and the fertility of the soil. In temperate 
climates population is concentrated and civilization extended. Only thirty 
million-^men lj ve on the twelve million square kilometers of plateau which 
constitute the southern limit of the plains of the World Island. A billion 
human beings live in the monsoon countries; only some tens of millions in the 
tropical forests of Africa or South America. At present humanity is commonly 
divided into developed and underdeveloped populations, or the Soviet bloc 
as distinguished from the Western bloc and the rest of the world. Mackinder 
does try to relate the modalities of human population to the geographical 
conditions. But he would be the last to suggest a determination of the size 
of populations by environment, since political problems, in his eyes, are 
precisely altered according to the modifications which intervene in the dis¬ 
tribution of human masses over the surface of the planet. 

The geographical vision of universal history is instructive, though it is 
partial and schematic, because it emphasizes facts of enormous consequence: 
there have been, over the centuries, two kinds of conquerors, two kinds of 
nomads—the horsemen and the seafarers; many times over, the vicissitudes 
of diplomacy are controlled by the struggle of land and sea, the victory going 
to one or the other in turn, depending on whether the continental power 
or the maritime power possess more resources, and on whether technology 
favors one or the other. The major facts are linked to the geographical frame¬ 
work. The nomadism of the horsemen and the seafarers is a mode of adapta¬ 
tion to the environment, a human way of life which must be situated in a 
certain kind of space in order to be understood. Mongols or Arabs developed 
as they were, on the steppes or on the desert. Yet they have not, except in a 
symbolic sense, been created by the fiat spaces, under the enormous immen¬ 
sity of the sky. Genghis Khan and Mohammed are historical persons for 
whom geography shows at most something of their origin. Hence it would be 
wrong, though it is tempting, to derive either predictions or ideologies from 
a geographical reading of universal history. 

0 A 11 these figures, given by Mackinder, date from about twenty years ago. 



Geopoliticians, especially German ones, have not always resisted the tempta¬ 
tion. Since the thirties, still more today, one question arises, following the 
dual consideration of land and sea forces: in a conflict between a continental 
empire and a maritime empire, which from this point on lias the best chances 
of winning? As a matter of fact, nowhere does Mackinder explicitly answer 
such a question. The only universally valid rule to be derived from his 
writings is the reasoning of the man-in-the-street as well: in the long run, 
the strongest (the most numerous, the richest, the most productive) conquers. 

As a theoretician, Mackinder appears in certain respects to be a kind of 
anti-Mahan. Whereas the theoretician of naval warfare, writing at the end 
of the nineteenth century, is struck by the decisive role of naval supremacy, 
the geographer, interrogating the future, fears that the favor of the gods is 
shifting to the land. Railroads and engines permit man to triumph over solid 
space as effectively as the steamboats triumph over liquid space. What dis¬ 
tressed the English patriot awakens the hopes of the German nationalists. 
The age of maritime power is ending, that of continental power beginning. 
The economy of great space will inherit the world market. Whatever the 
consequence of these general views, it would have been vain, yesterday, to 
conclude from them the result of the Second World War, and it would be 
vain, today, to conclude from them the victory of the continental empire. 
Probably the number of causes which determine the fortune of states or 
coalitions is too great for any short-term estimate as to the outcome of a polit¬ 
ical or military crisis to be scientifically possible. But in any case, an estimate 
of this order should result from a consideration of all the data and not from 
a deliberately partial analysis. 

Nor did Mackinder formulate a geographical ideology, if we are to under¬ 
stand by this concept the justification, by an argument of a geographical 
order, of goals or ambitions of a political order. Yet he nonetheless arrived 
at the source of many geographical ideologies. The latter, in effect, always re¬ 
turn to a fundamental idea: the idea of space itself—by its extension or by 
its quality—as the stake of the struggle between human collectivities. As a 
result the ideologies of space-as-stake are divided into two categories, depend¬ 
ing on whether the necessity invoked is economic or strategic. The ideology of 
vital space (espace vital) belongs to the first category, the ideology of natural 
frontiers to the second. The ideology of vital space has enjoyed its greatest 
success in Germany, the ideology of natural frontiers, in France. Mackinder 
did not subscribe to the German ideology of vital space, but he laid the 
ground for it, by a curious conception as opposed to Manchester liberalism: 
the “protection of a predatory type.” 

He had understood, better than many of his contemporaries, the nature of 
what we call industrial society, and what he calls a “going concern.” A mod¬ 
em nation is comparable to an industrial enterprise: rich in relation to its pro¬ 
ductive capacity, by the measurement of labor output. The number of men 
capable of living in a given space increases with the labor output. It is to 


I 99 

modern industry that Germany owes the fact that she has been able to double 
the size of her population in half a century. 

From these facts Mackinder did not deduce that the struggle for the earth 
is losing its violence and its significance, since the growth in intensity makes 
it unnecessary to enlarge the available surface. He suggests, on the contrary, 
that the concentration of populations in a confined space feeds new hatreds 
among the nations by waking the fear of collective famine. The more Ger¬ 
mans there are inside the frontiers of the Reich, the more they fear the lack 
of space, hence someday of bread or raw materials. 

The harmonious development of industrial society, during the course of 
the period previous to the First World War, seemed to Mackinder to have 
been compromised as much by Manchester liberalism as by protectionism in 
the German style. In his eyes, both tended to prevent the balanced growth 
indispensable to each nation or, at least, to each region of the globe. By 
balanced growth he meant, according to the philosophy of F. List’s national 
economy, the presence in each great economy of all the important industries. 
Now, free exchange ultimately accorded the advanced nations the possession 
of certain key industries. The most-favored-nation clause, as Germany had 
imposed it upon France in the Frankfurt Treaty and, later, upon Russia even 
in a simple commercial treaty, had comparable consequences. 

The Germans, Mackinder wrote, need the Slavs, who must produce a part 
of their food for them and purchase from them their manufactured products. 
Thus they are driven by the spirit of panic to ventures of conquest, obliged 
to maintain a domination indispensable to their existence. But to this end 
they must first of all eliminate the bridgeheads of island or maritime powers 
on the Continent. Whereas England doggedly clings to a liberalism that has 
become anachronistic, Germany, in her anxiety, is ready to fall back into 
cannibalism, while Bolshevik Russia collapses into the anarchy whose con¬ 
clusion, the geographer prophecies, will be a pitiless despotism. A balanced 
development of national economies first of all, a balance among the nations, 
among the regions of the globe next—such is the sole path to peace. 

It was easy to manipulate ideas in order to make them yield a geographical 
ideology. It was enough to insist on the danger incurred by a collectivity 
whose existence depends on lands, mines or factories situated heyond its 
frontiers. More simply—more crudely, too—it was enough to attribute to col¬ 
lectivities a natural desire for expansion in order for space to become the 
stake and no longer the theater of foreign policy. The German doctrine of 
vital space and the Japanese doctrine of co-prosperity were both inspired by a 
naturalist philosophy according to which political units are comparable to 
living units whose will to live is identified with the will to conquest. 

In their propaganda Germans and Japanese were wary of referring to the 
principles of their metaphysic. They condemned the lack of space from which 
they suffered ([Volk ohne Raurn), hence the need (that they were obliged 
to satisfy at any cost) to occupy a more extensive territory, to possess more 



cultivable land in order to feed their people, more sources of raw materials 
in order to supply their factories. Imperialism became inevitable and legit¬ 
imate, since it was a question of life or death. Such an argument is obviously 
based on the hypothesis that the planet is too small for all tine peoples on it to 
prosper: the lack of space affects all humanity, and the pitiless struggle among 
states and peoples is the inexorable result. 

Such an ideology is contemporaneous not with the great invasions, but 
with the awareness of what Paul Valery once called the world finite (Ie 
monde fini )JIH The great conquerors, from the Mongols to the Spaniards, 
were not concerned with justifying their enterprises and, insofar as they 
did so, invoked the superiority of their strength, of their civilization, or 
of their gods. From the sixteenth century to the twentieth the Europeans 
have prodigiously enlarged their vital space. It was in the twentieth century, 
when the planet was or appeared to be entirely occupied, that the Germans, 
who had come last on the scene, rationalized their bitterness and their ambi¬ 
tion by biological-geographic ideology. 

In i960, current opinion, subject to sudden reversals, no longer sees any¬ 
thing but lies and sophisms in the propaganda of yesterday’s imperialists. How 
can one admit that the losers of the last war could not survive without addi¬ 
tional space, whereas the hundred million Japanese, crowded within their 
four islands, enjoy a standard of living previously unknown to the Japanese, 
lords of the sphere of Asian co-prosperity, and whereas the fifty-five million 
Germans of the Federal Republic, in the last ten years, show the highest 
population increase of the Occident? And that this increase seems due, in 
large part, to the influx of millions of refugees—that is, to the population 
density which yesterday’s propagandists denounced? 

Inevitably, today’s observers conclude that the imperialist ideology, de¬ 
rived from geopolitics, marks a transition phase. Mackinder and his German 
disciples clearly confirmed that the industrial system permitted a tremendous 
increase in the number of men settled on a given surface. But they failed 
to carry their analysis to its conclusion: they did not appreciate the possibil¬ 
ities of a growth in intensity. Prisoners of old concepts, they supposed those 
nations were in danger when they were obliged to seek their supplies abroad. 
Further, they endorsed the old concept according to which farm workers 
should represent an important percentage of the total population, and sug¬ 
gested that in certain cases only territorial expansion would make it possible 
to maintain this percentage. Lastly, they did not understand that in our own 
day, taking possession of a space has a radically different meaning, depending 
on whether or not that space is empty. By losing Korea, Formosa and Man¬ 
churia the Japanese lost their controlling position with respect to the popula- 

HHActually, Valery was thinking less of the occupation of the entire earth than of 
the communication of every fraction of mankind, of every region of the planet, with 
each other. 



tions of their colonies and protectorates. But they have thereby evaded the 
obligation of dispersing their investments. In the case of Japan the ruin of the 
empire has favored rather than compromised, accelerated rather than slack¬ 
ened the development of the national economy. 

This interpretation of geographical ideologies and of the Japanese and 
German empires, created and destroyed by the preceding generation, does 
not entirely convince the historian. Is it possible that we are so much more 
intelligent than those who immediately preceded us, than we ourselves were 
twenty years ago? Was Hitler’s undertaking, and Japan’s, not only criminal 
but absurd, since the punishment of defeat is prosperity thereafter? 

Things are not so simple. Military strength is not proportional to the 
volume of production and the level of productivity. Japan, disarmed within 
her islands, lives better or less badly than yesterday's imperial Japan. But the 
latter was a great power, the former is not even a second-class power: in 
military terms, Japan is incapable of defending herself: she is a burden and 
not a help to her allies. Similarly, the Federal Republic of Germany is 
richer than the Third Reich: it achieves a per capita production which the 
latter did not attain. It also assures each man a higher revenue than the 
revenue of Hitler’s subjects. But Hitler’s subjects participated in the glory of 
a great power. The citizen who relied on Chancellor Adenauer owes his 
security to the strength of the United States. He is a spectator of the great 
conflicts of history. In other words, the imperial attempts were perhaps not 
irrational if their goal was collective power, the capacity to affect the course 
of history. 

Even on the economic level, the problems did not appear so clearly twenty 
years ago as they do today. The danger of dependence on external sources of 
supply did not seem, at the time, exclusively military; it was regarded as 
economic too. In 1919 Mackinder wrote that the Germans were obliged to 
reduce the Slavs to the role of purveyors of food and purchasers of manu¬ 
factured products. Such a theory incorrectly assumes that the industrialization 
of one country requires the non-industrialization of another. I believe this 
proposition is false in general; it was false, in any case, at the beginning of 
the twentieth century, concerning the relations between Germans and Slavs. 

The events of the thirties and the great depression have given an ephem¬ 
eral probability to these ambiguous conceptions, deduced from an incomplete 
analysis of the industrial system as well as from the persistence of traditional 
ideas. Access to raw materials seemed jeopardized by the lack of currency. 
The barriers raised against the Japanese exports created legitimate anxiety in 
Japanese public opinion and among the leaders of the Nipponese Empire. 
The disintegration of world economy, the return to bilateral agreements, the 
multiplication of protectionist measures, all these consequences of the great 
depression were indeed of such a nature as to render precarious, in appearance 
and even in reality, the fate of nations whose existence was subject to the 
hazards of international exchange. That such, today, is the fate of all or of 



almost all nations, and that their peoples have grown accustomed to it, does 
not prevent us from understanding that during the thirties this dependence 
should have seemed terrifying and caused panic. 

Thus the fortune of the geographical ideologies seems linked to three kinds 
of circumstances. The sedentary peoples, for whom cavalcades and combats 
are no longer the normal manner of living and who no longer dare invoke 
the god of battles, were prompted, by a dialectical reversal, to deduce spirit 
from nature, law from fact and historical legitimacy from physical necessity. 
Incomplete comprehension of the industrial system emphasized the risks 
rather than the opportunities of the growth in intensity, of the increase in 
the number of inhabitants in a given space. Finally, an exceptionally violent 
crisis suddenly seemed to confirm these fears and revive the specter of famine. 
Therewith Germans and Japanese believed they were back in the distant 
ages when populations sought safety in migration. 

The ideology of natural frontiers offers, historically, certain features com¬ 
mon to the ideology of vital space. The latter supposes that conquests need 
to be justified and that this justification cannot readily be furnished by 
spiritual doctrines. Similarly, the ideology of natural frontiers serves to justify 
the frontier when one does not possess a better argument. 

In the age of kings and of the dynastic principle, monarchs determined 
the possession of cities or provinces among themselves. The will of the popu¬ 
lations played virtually no part and would not have sufficed to confirm the 
legitimacy or illegitimacy of a transfer of sovereignty. The conquests of Louis 
XIV caused a scandal because they were effected by force, in certain cases 
without even a declaration of war, not because they ignored the sentiments 
of populations. The idea of natural frontiers found acceptance in the nine¬ 
teenth century and appeared all the more convincing to the revolutionaries 
because it filled a gap in the new ideas. The French Republic could not take 
or yield provinces in the manner of the kings who actually treated their lands 
and their subjects as personal property. In its periods of glory and fervor, the 
Republic did not annex territory, it liberated peoples from tyranny. Still, 
it was necessary that the peoples be prepared to hail as liberators the soldiers 
who deposed their kings, to recognize in the French Republic, or in any 
satellite republic, the consecration of their own liberty (the point had not 
yet been reached of organizing demonstrations of enthusiasm). Vanquished, 
France invoked against the German Empire the right of peoples to self- 
determination. Victorious, she was tempted to appeal to the notion of natural 
frontiers which authorized her to ignore the will of populations. 

A natural frontier, if this formula has any meaning, is a frontier traced in 
advance on the physical map, indicated by a river or a chain of mountains, 
hence easy to defend. A natural frontier should be called strategic or military. 
The military argument is the equivalent of the biological or economic argu¬ 
ment of vital space—it is the substitute for a moral argument. The need for 


security justifies the annexation of a province as vital necessity justifies vast 

The geographical study of frontiers offers virtually no arguments to the 
doctrine of so-called natural frontiers. In fact, political frontiers, down 
through the centuries, have diverged from the lines of physical separation 
(rivers or chains of mountains) as often as they have followed them. The 
Alps have marked the frontier between Italy and France for only a century. 
The Pyrenees constitute the political but not the linguistic frontier between 
Spain and France: on either side of the Pyrenees there are Catalans and 
particularly Basques. Nor has the Rhine, which does not mark a linguistic 
frontier, become a political frontier between Germans and French. 

Can it be said that a political frontier is stronger, has more chances of being 
maintained when it consecrates a fiat of geography? This is an illusion. The 
stability of a frontier depends only to a small degree on physical or strategic 
conditions. It is a function of the relations between the collectivities which 
it separates. When in agreement on ideas concerning legitimacy during a 
particular period, it creates no occasion for conflict. In this sense, a frontier 
regarded by neighboring states as equitable is, in itself, the best frontier, 
whether good or bad in military terms. Further, according to the technique 
of arms and the configuration of alliances, a frontier changes its meaning. 
In the Europe of i960, the Rhine has ceased to be a sensitive area. It has 
always favored contact among people and the exchange of goods and ideas. 
With the end of Franco-German rivalry, it changes its political-military func¬ 
tion, since it henceforth flows not between enemies but partners. 

Is the frontier between zones of civilizations more visible, more constant 
on the map than the frontier between political units? It is along the line 
extending from the Baltic to the Adriatic, from Stettin to Trieste, that the 
Asian invasion petered out. It is not impossible to find the causes for this 
almost natural occurrence: the conqueror’s impulse is exhausted with distance. 
We should be nevertheless wrong to rely on geography alone as a guarantee 
for the security of Western Europe. If the West were protected only by the 
Stettin-Trieste line, there would be reason to fear for its future. 

No so-called natural fortification is sufficient to repulse the aggressors. The 
outcome of the struggle between nomads and sedentary peoples has never 
been predetermined solely by geographical conditions. A fortiori, the victory 
of Communist despotism or of the Western democracies, the coexistence of 
these two civilizations, the future frontier of two worlds, all are events of 
which space will be the theater, but not the exclusive or principal deter¬ 

4. Space in the Scientific Age 

Is the geographical perspective of history now losing its meaning? Is 
humanity liberating itself from the constraints of environment as it acquires 
the mastery of natural forces? Will the collectivities, capable of prospering 



without conquests, not become more peaceful, once space has ceased to be 
the preferred stake of the struggle among peoples? 

It is difficult to deny that the progress of technology involves a certain 
liberation of humanity, a reduction of environmental constraint. The number 
of men capable of living in a given area is no longer rigorously limited in 
advance. The choices available to a human group settled in a particular 
territory are increased as the trades and professions accessible to each in¬ 
dividual increase. Means of mastering cold or heat permit us to inhabit re¬ 
gions of the globe formerly abandoned. We can foresee the time when 
scientists will be in a position, without excessive investments, to modify 
climate itself. More than ever, the earth is the work of mankind, though it 
has pre-existed and might well survive it. 

Yet it would be dangerous to compare this liberation, though it may be 
gradual and partial, to a total freedom. To take only one example, but the 
most important, the number of men capable of living upon given surfaces, 
though no longer rigorously limited in advance, has nonetheless not become 
unlimited. Thus the judgments of historians or geographers as to the impor¬ 
tance of space proceed from one extreme to the other. 

One American historian, W. P. WebbJUD regards that part of the earth’s 
surface which the Europeans possess and have possessed since the sixteenth 
century as the major factor which has determined and which today explains 
certain features of their societies (liberalism, mobility, etc.). In 1500, 100 
million Europeans lived on a territory of 3.75 million square miles, in other 
words a density of 7.6 human beings per square mile. With the conquest of 
America they acquired some 20 million additional square miles, or about five 
times the surface of Europe. Thereby, each European possessed, so to speak, 
148 acres instead of 24, not to mention the natural resources (gold, silver, 
furs, etc.). The modern period, that which extends from the sixteenth cen¬ 
tury to the twentieth, was abnormally favorable to the population of Europe. 
It has enjoyed advantages which no other population has enjoyed in the 
past, which no other, probably, will enjoy in the future. 

In the course of these fortunate centuries, the population of Europe has 
continually increased. In 1900 the density per square mile had returned to 
27; by 1940 it reached 35. Elenceforth, space was more nearly filled, the house 
more crowded than at the dawn of modern times. The American historian 
thereby concludes that the features peculiar to European societies, especially 
the liberal institutions, will disappear with the exceptional circumstances 
that have brought them into being. The European societies will return to 
the common fate, one like the other. 

It is easy to object that Webb exaggerates the significance of his statistics. 
A density of 27 in 1900 has not the same value as this same density in 1500. 
Density must be measured in relation to technological means, that is, in rela- 

0T he Great Frontier, Boston, 1952. 



tion to productivity, either by surface unit or by worker unit. If we adopt this 
mode of calculation, which is the only valid one, the actual density, even if it 
were double or triple that of 1500, would be inferior to it in terms of social 
reality. In this connection, one demographer, M. A. Sauvy, asserts that no 
portion of the planet today suffers from absolute overpopulation—except per¬ 
haps Holland. Everywhere else, the difficulty stems from the inadequacy 
of development, not the excess of men. 

Without discussing this concept at present, which we shall return to in the 
following chapter, the present distribution of men and resources on the sur¬ 
face of the earth suggests that the struggle for space might not be over, de¬ 
spite the partial independence acquired by the human collectivities with re¬ 
gard to their environment. M. Vermot-Gauchy has published an interesting 
study of this distribution, from which we borrow the following statistics!^ 

The surface of the earth above water is 52.5 million square miles. The 
population being 2784 million in 1955, the average unitary surface (that is, 
the available surface per human being) is 12.0 acres. Now let us define two 
concepts: we shall call a nation’s individual productivity the quotient of the 
national revenue divided by the number of inhabitants; we shall call its 
spatial productivity the quotient of the national revenue divided by the num¬ 
ber of square miles of its territory. 

The United States has a huge area of 3.7 million square miles, a national 
revenue of $324 billion, a population of 167 million. Its average unitary sur¬ 
face is 14.0 acres, its individual productivity $1940, its spatial productivity 
$34,100. In the U.S.S.R. the unitary surface is 27.5 acres (for an area of 8.6 
million square miles, and a population of 200 million), the individual pro¬ 
ductivity $600 (for a national revenue of $120 billion), the spatial produc¬ 
tivity $5400. In Europe the unitary surface is 2.8 acres (for an area of 10.1 
million square miles and a population of 360 million), the individual produc¬ 
tivity $650 (for a national revenue of $232 billion), the spatial productivity 

On the American continent, Canada has a unitary surface of 156.2 acres, 
an individual productivity of $1320, a spatial productivity of $2100. In Latin 
America the unitary surface is 28.2 acres, the individual productivity $280, 
the spatial productivity $2500. 

In the Soviet Zone the European satellites have a unitary surface of 6.25 
acres, an individual productivity of $600, a spatial productivity of $26,000. 
China has a unitary surface of 3.75 acres, an individual productivity of $100, 
a spatial productivity of $6200. Non-Communist Asia has an individual pro¬ 
ductivity of $100, and a spatial productivity of $5200. 

These figures are approximate because of the uncertainty of the calcula¬ 
tions of national revenue. Further, they are distorted to a degree because the 
designated surface does not specify the quality of the land and the nature of 

EsS] 1955 figures published in the Bulletin of the S.E.D.E.I.S., No. 726, July 1959. 



the climate. The northern space which Canada and the Soviet Union possess 
is not the equivalent of the fertile lands of Western Europe. But these in¬ 
contestable errors, though difficult to correct (the distinction between culti¬ 
vable and non-cultivable land is relative), do not eliminate the significance 
of the major data. 

Among the developed nations we perceive two categories: those in which 
individual productivity exceeds the average (360) more than spatial produc¬ 
tivity (this is the case of the United States and even of the Soviet Union); 
and those, on the other hand, in which the spatial productivity exceeds the 
average more than individual productivity (the case of Western Europe). 
Even in absolute figures, the spatial productivity of Western Europe (58,000) 
exceeds that of the United States (34,000). 

Now, on the military level, mediocre unitary surface is a double source of 
weakness: it prevents the dispersion which, in the age of thermonuclear 
weapons, offers advantages; and it increases the dependence on the supply of 
men and factories. Nations with a high spatial productivity—and England, 
with her $250,000, is the most striking example—are condemned to buy and 
sell a great deal abroad. During preceding centuries this international com¬ 
merce took place in the shadow of the Union Jack flying aft on the 
ships of the Royal Navy. The European population could not do without 
food and raw materials from overseas, but armies and fleets guaranteed the 
loyalty of the purveyors. In our century this military guarantee has collapsed. 
In the name of vital space or the sphere of Asian co-prosperity, Germany and 
Japan have sought to escape dependence, or rather to escape economic soli¬ 
darity. Renouncing these ambitions or these illusions, the Europeans have 
subsequently preached the vanity of conquest, the fruitfulness of exchange: 
there is room for all. This theory also corresponds to the new situation. Com¬ 
pared to yesterday’s imperialist ideologies, it also has the advantage of teach¬ 
ing states the trade of merchants and no longer that of armies. 

Similarly, among the so-called underdeveloped nations, two categories are 
immediately apparent: nations of relatively strong spatial productivity 
(China: $6200) and nations of relatively weak spatial productivity (Latin 
America: $2500). China already has a dense population before the process 
of industrialization begins. Latin America has an individual productivity 
which is nearly triple China’s, and possesses eight times more space per capita. 
The basic data are much more favorable for Latin America than for China 
—which does not mean that the latter will not progress more rapidly than the 

These figures in no way suggest that the people without space will some 
day resume the forward march that was interrupted by the irreversible defeat 
of German and Japanese imperialism. On the contrary, everything indicates 
that in the short run, in terms of decades, unitary surface matters less than 
the technological capacity of populations. The nations of the Common Mar¬ 
ket already have a spatial productivity of some $200,000. They have nonethe- 



less experienced since 1950—that is, since the end of the reconstruction period 
—the highest rate of increase in the free world. In peacetime, purchases 
abroad of a share of the supplies for men and factories involved dependence 
(the maintenance of competitive prices is indispensable) but also advantages 
(the seller of raw materials depends on the purchaser at least as much as the 
latter on the former: in 1956 Europe was afraid of not having enough oil, 
the nations which live on royalties are afraid of not finding customers). 
Similarly, among the underdeveloped nations, it is not those possessing the 
largest unitary surface that will develop most rapidly in the coming decades, 
but those likely to establish the most effective industrialization policy. In 
other words, during the present historical phase, the ideology of vital space 
will not he invoked by the imperialist states, and the lack of space will not 
he the direct cause of possible attempts at conquest. Yet we cannot thereby 
conclude that the discrepancies in spatial productivity will always remain 
without influence. At present, in the race for power, Russians and Americans 
have the advantage, in relation to Europeans, of a relatively low population 
density, which permits extensive agriculture, allows a broad margin of demo¬ 
graphic and economic growth, guarantees that at the end of one or of several 
centuries, an increase—however slow—in productivity, combined with a 
substantial growth of the number of inhabitants, will be expressed by a con¬ 
siderable increase in total resources. In Europe, France remains below the 
demographic optimunUi] of power and well-being, hut Western Germany and 
Great Britain cannot increase the size of their population without also raising 
the percentage of externally purchased supplies, for both men and industries. 
This is not an insurmountable obstacle (the Federal Republic of Germany 
has shown this for ten years). It is nonetheless, in general, an unfavorable 
circumstance. More clearly still, the Chinese might some day compare the 
unitary surface they possess with that of their neighbors. In any case, whether 
nations tend to modify the distribution of space by force or accommodate 
themselves to the present distribution, correcting by trade the disparities of 
density, unitary surface will remain one of the factors which controls the 
course of demographic advancement. The Frenchmen in Canada, number¬ 
ing sixty thousand at the time of the Treaty of Paris, today have more than 
five million descendants. They were not different from those in France, but 
in the vast spaces of the new country, the majority of their children survived. 

The temporary suspension of the struggle for space, as a result of the re¬ 
sources available to peoples by the growth in intensity, coincides with the 
transformation of what we might call the sense of space (the expression was 
coined by Professor Carl Schmitt: RaumsiniS) . The sense of space has 
been, in each period, determined by the image which men have made for 

[IlSee below, Chap. VIII. 

[ULSee Carl Schmitt, Land und Meer, eine weltgeschichtliche Betrachtung, Leipzig, 



themselves o£ their habitat, by the style of movement and of combat on land 
and at sea, by the stake for which societies came into conflict. 

Today humanity as a whole conceives its habitat differently from the river 
civilizations of the Egyptian type, from civilizations of closed seas like those 
of the Greeks and the Romans, or even from the continental-oceanic civiliza¬ 
tions, that is, from Western civilization since the voyages of exploration up to 
our own period. Lines of communication and thereby those of strategy are 
no longer those of yesterday. Planes take passengers from Paris to Tokyo via 
the Pole. The United States and the Soviet Union are no longer separated by 
Western Europe and the Atlantic: given the speed of strategic bombers or 
ballistic missiles, they are quite close to each other and they have the Arctic, 
one might say, as a common frontier. 

The opposition of land to sea—the one which symbolized the contrast be¬ 
tween the remote control of the ocean and the yard-by-yard occupation of the 
earth, or even between the possessive and stay-at-home spirit of the territorial 
power and the adventurous and commercial spirit (pirate or merchant, it 
matters little) of the maritime power—tends to lessen or to assume a new 
character. Vessels and their crews are no longer isolated, depending on their 
own resources for weeks at a time. Corsairs are located by airplanes nowa¬ 
days, and radio communication permits an orderly regrouping of ships, even 
when dispersion is required to avoid destruction. 

In terms of myth, we might say that earth and water are henceforth sub¬ 
ject to the law of air and fire. The same spirit is imposed upon land and sea 
forces: that of science. In both cases the leader manipulates men, maneuvers 
units, aircraft carriers or divisions according to a plan coordinating the units. 
If the spirit of individual initiative, of a surprise attack, of heroic piracy, of 
terrorism by alternately noble and sordid passion still finds occasions to mani¬ 
fest itself, it is no longer on the desert of sand or waves, where rebels are 
helplessly hunted down by the air police, but in the mountains and by the 
maquis. Because of the aerial weapon, the sea is no longer the province of 
adventure. Because of fire, the bases are losing their military importance or, 
at least, the bases no longer have a fixed site. The protection of the United 
States against a surprise attack is no longer the passive defense of shelters for 
the population, nor the active defense of cannons or planes or engines, nor 
the military system of fortifications, airfields or ports, but the retaliatory force. 
Yet the latter’s security is insured less by the depth of underground protection 
or by distance in relation to the enemy than by ubiquity. Atomic submarines, 
armed with Polaris rockets, are everywhere and nowhere, they are somewhere 
on or under the seas, invulnerable and pacifying. History has decided be¬ 
tween the theory of the res nullius and the res omnium: the sea belongs to 
all. The air, too, starting from a certain height, will belong to all because of 
satellites. Rockets strike down spy planes of the U-2 type, but satellites photo¬ 
graph the earth and transmit photographs. 

Having conquered the oceans, and then the air, European man, subse- 



quently relayed in his race by all humanity, turns his eyes and his ambitions 
toward interstellar space. Will the closed societies pursue their provincial 
disputes beyond our planet and our atmosphere, as the English and French 
fought each other in the snows of Canada? Or will the rulers of industrial 
society finally bring about the reign of order and peace, leaving to the re¬ 
bellious no other refuge than secluded caves or the solitude of consciousness? 

chapter VIII 

On Number 

We Lave often touched on the problem of number in the preceding chap¬ 
ter. Indeed, how can we deal with space without suggesting the number of 
men who populate each of its pieces? It is the link between the distribution 
of natural resources and the distribution of population on the earth’s surface 
which suggested to Mackinder the geographical design we have studied 
above. It is through the intermediary of number that, to a large degree, space 
affects the course of history and the fortune of nations. 

The number of men capable of living on a given surface of the earth ob¬ 
viously varies with their technological means. If we suppose that the latter 
are constant—and, for long periods of historyP this supposition was not far 
from the truth and even closer to men’s awareness of that truth—events and 
institutions, victories and disasters, the ownership of property and public 
safety, the attitude of the rulers to trade and wealth, all are justifiably re¬ 
garded as the direct causes of variations in number. 

But this mode of consideration, legitimate in itself, sometimes deceived 
the most learned authors into making erroneous propositions. Montesquieu 
believed that the population of Europe, in the eighteenth century, was 
diminishing!!] He accused the centralization around Paris of causing this 

"It is the perpetual reunion of many little states that has produced this 
diminution. Formerly, every village of France was a capital; there is at present 
only one large one. Every part of the state was a center of power; at present 
all parts have a relation to one center and this center is in some measure the 
state itself.” 

Number is a determinant odious to men and, for this very reason, myste¬ 
rious. It is anonymous, imperceptible. Men have personified, transfigured 

fFLet us repeat, once and for all, that by bistory we designate tbe brief period known 
as that of tbe higher societies or civilizations, about six thousand years. 
fH/Esprit des his, XXIII. 



into a benevolent or malevolent divinity the land or the sea, fire or air, oil or 
coal, socialism or capitalism, trusts or the masses. Only a military genius could 
admit, without being accused of cynicism, that the favors of heaven went 
by preference to the biggest battalions. 

Number is the best explanation of events for the man who prefers to 
demystify. He also risks discouraging or exasperating those who refuse to re¬ 
duce their ambitions to the measure of their resources. 

I. The Uncertainties of Number 

The first question number raises is also the one most difficult to answer. 
To know to what degree number determines the strength of armies, the power 
of nations, the result of combats, the greatness of states, we would have to 
establish exactly the size of populations, the strength of troops in conflict. 
Now the figures given by the chroniclers have often been not only false but 
foolish. It is as if exactitude, in these matters, filled them with horror. 

According to Herodotus, the Persians who besieged the Greek city-states 
numbered two million (not counting servants or slaves). We need merely 
calculate the distance between the head and the Tear of such an army in 
columns to perceive at once the absurdity of the estimatelH Historians have 
long been impressed by these assertions from witnesses who in other re¬ 
spects deserved to be believed. Even today, many hesitate to accept Del- 
brlick’s demonstration (which I find convincing) that the Athenians at 
Marathon—an infantry of citizens—outnumbered the Persian cavalry^ 

Perhaps more moderate in their errors, the chroniclers of the Middle Ages 
are no more accurate. They count 120,000 Burgundians at the battle of 
Grandson; Delbriick reduces the number to I 4 ,oocGD There is no doubt, as 
can readily be proved by reference to the possibilities of quartermaster service 
and supply, that the great battles of history, before the eighteenth century, 
were waged by several thousand combatants. The army with which Alex¬ 
ander set out for the conquest of Asia, more than forty thousand men, was 
not, as we were taught at school, a small army but an enormous one, by the 
calculations of the period. 

Two psychological mechanisms account for these fantasies in calculation. 

iln this chapter I am using Hans Delbriick’s Geschichte der Kriegskunst, irn Rahmen 
der politischen Geschichte, Vol. I, Berlin, 1900, I, p. 10. Herodotus attributes to 
Xerxes’ army a total o£ 4,200,000, who would have formed a column of 420 miles. 
When the head of the column had reached Thermopylae, the rear would still have 
been at Suva, beyond the Tigris. 

hid., pp. 38 f£. Apropos of Herodotus' figure of two million Persian soldiers, Jean 
Berard (Population, 2nd year, No. 2, 1947, p. 304) writes that the figure must be at 
least five times too large, perhaps more. If it were only five times too large, there would 
still have been four hundred thousand Persian soldiers, which is as improbable as two 

HJlbid., pp. 8-9. The argument summarized by Delbriick is to be found in the lectures 
published in English, Number in History, London, 1913. 



I shall call the first the illusion of multitude. We can all the more readily 
understand this mechanism since it continues to function in our own period. 
In 1940 the French believed that the number of German parachutists, tanks 
and planes was enormous. As a matter of fact, only several thousand para¬ 
chutists were engaged in the battle (4500). The tanks which broke the 
French lines numbered no more than 2580, and there were no more than 
3000 airplanes supporting the army; this number was multiplied by the suc¬ 
cesses they won. Similarly the Normans, the Hussites, and the Mongols who 
terrorized Europe numbered no more than several thousand. 

A somewhat different mechanism accounts for the apparently involuntary 
errors committed by the British in their count of the German planes shot 
down in the Battle of England during the summer of 1940. The 185 planes 
were actually only 46. The same victim was claimed, perhaps justifiably, by 
several pursuit pilots. By attributing to each of the latter a different victim, the 
true figure was ultimately multiplied by three or four. The illusion of multi¬ 
tude appears not only when each witness feels he is in the presence of a 
tremendous host, but also when each witness is supposed to have seen a 
different enemy. 

It is only a step to the second mechanism, which I shall call interested 
falsification. The number of those who paraded in Paris from the Place de la 
Republique to the Place de la Bastille in May 1958 varied, according to the 
political preferences of the newspapers, as much as three times the actual 
figure. Each camp exaggerates the losses suffered by the enemy and system¬ 
atically underestimates its own. 

Sometimes the illusion of multitude is combined with interested falsifica¬ 
tion. Did the Greeks believe in the forces they attributed to Xerxes, or did 
they wish to magnify their own merits? Were hordes of German tanks and 
planes necessary to excuse defeat, or had the French convinced themselves 
of the exactitude of the figures which furnished an excuse and, simulta¬ 
neously, corresponded to the truth of their impressions? 

Despite the critical studies of historians, the number of combatants has 
not been established for every great battle with unquestionable precision. 
Thus the role of numerical superiority or inferiority remains, by definition, 
uncertain. Such uncertainty seems to me still greater when the size of popu¬ 
lations is in question. It is often difficult to distinguish the partial depopula¬ 
tion which affects the privileged classes or, at least, the combatant classes, 
from total depopulation. The ancient authors leave us no doubt as to the 
first phenomenon: we know, with great exactitude, the number of citizens 
in Athens and Sparta at different dates. Yet this does not warrant our draw¬ 
ing conclusions concerning the total population, including foreigners and 
slaves. And indeed, depending on whether we are concerned with citizens 
or total population, the phenomenon is not the same. In one case it is a 
question of differential fertility according to class, for which social organiza- 



tion is responsible; in the other it is a question of a kind of exhaustion of 

Even if the first obstacle were surmounted, if we established the numerical 
data concerning the forces of the combatants and the size of populations, it 
would not he easy to isolate the influence of number. Let us take a historical 
example, a well-known one, in which the figures are precise and certain. 
The Franco-German War of 1870 is subdivided into two phases: during the 
first the regular armies of the Second Empire, composed of professional sol¬ 
diers, were defeated by the more numerous armies of Prussia and her allies. 
During the second phase the armies improvised by the Government of Na¬ 
tional Defense, despite their numerical superiority, were also defeated. Must 
we impute the defeat of Napoleon Ill’s armies to numerical inferiority, to 
the better quality of the Prussian cannon, or to the deficiencies of the French 
command? To what degree to each of these causes? Rarely, down through the 
centuries, have authors invoked number in order to explain the fortune of 
arms, but, even today, it is difficult for us to specify the role such explana¬ 
tions play in a given circumstance or at any one period of history. 

As it is not our intention to analyze specific cases in detail—and only such 
analyses would permit us to reduce the margin of uncertainty—we shall try to 
develop propositions of a certain generality bearing on two chief problems: 
the influence of number on strength or power, and the relation between 
population (or overpopulation) and wars. 

Let us first note the changes in the order of size. There were probably 
three to five thousand Athenian combatants on the battlefield of Marathon. 
Alexander set out for the conquest of Asia with an army (enormous for the 
period) of some forty thousand warriors. Napoleon mobilized ten times as 
many men in order to cross the frontiers of Russia in January 1812. The army 
which Hitler had amassed in 1941 with a view to the same enterprise num¬ 
bered in millions and not in hundreds of thousands of men. There were only 
one hundred million people on earth at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, 
about six hundred million at the beginning of the seventeenth century; today 
there are three billion. 

The force and cultural contribution of the collectivities have never been 
proportional to their respective size. Whether we attribute the miracle of 
Greece and the creations of Athens to social circumstances or hereditary gifts, 
the fact remains that one man has never, historically, been “equal to another” 
on a one-to-one basis. Within political units as in the competition among 
them, the smaller number has more than once been the artisan of fate. 

On the battlefield, number has almost always been an important factor. In 
particular, within a zone of civilization, when neither arms nor organization 
were essentially different, it tended to force the decision. Still we may modify 
or correct the preceding proposition by two remarks. In the case of a conflict 
between combatants who belong to fundamentally heterogeneous collectivi- 



ties, a small troop is capable of scoring spectacular successes. The term “con¬ 
quest a la Cortez” has become classical in the literature. Several dozen 
Spanish cavaliers represented a force of the first rank, facing the Aztecs of 
pre-Columbian Mexico. Similarly, in Europe, a few thousand Asian barbar¬ 
ians have more than once spread terror among populations incomparably 

Moreover, in antiquity, and even more generally down through the cen¬ 
turies preceding modern times, there did not exist a rigorous ratio between 
size of population and number of combatants. The most enormous empires 
could be built on a limited base, as in the case of the Romans, the Arabs or 
the Mongols. As the result of a high degree of mobilization, a more effective 
organization and the extension of citizenship to the conquered, a city-state 
could subject an entire zone of civilization to its rule without ever losing 
equality or numerical superiority on the battlefield. The capacity to arm a 
great number of men was a proof of political art, as the capacity to concen¬ 
trate one’s forces is still a proof of strategic art. 

To proceed beyond these generalities, we must consider separately two 
typical periods, antiquity on the one hand, nineteenth- and twentieth-century 
Europe on the other. In the Greek world Athens was a giant unit because 
it included, on the eve of the Peloponnesian War, forty thousand citizens 
and, with foreigners and slaves, over two hundred thousand souls. In nine¬ 
teenth-century Europe, France seemed doomed to decadence because her 
population rose only slowly. Turning from the Athens of five centuries before 
Christ to the France of nineteen centuries after Christ, we substitute for the 
thousands (or at most the tens of thousands) of the Greek authors the mil¬ 
lions of the contemporary demographers and for static consideration (what is 
the ideal volume of the city-state?) dynamic analysis (what is the preferable 
rate of increase?). 

Further, the relations between the forces of the city-states and the forces 
of the armies, the size of populations and the number of soldiers, are not the 
same and cannot be the same in the age of heroism and the age of petroleum 
or of the atom, to employ the expressions of J. F. C. Fuller^ As long as 
weapons are simple and cheap, the degree of mobilization is a result of the so¬ 
cial regime. In our period this degree depends on economic resources and on 
the solidity of the central power. The number of machines is more important 
than the number of men. 

It is from these two points of view—the way of dealing with the demo¬ 
graphic problem, the relation between the size of the population and the 
number of soldiers, between the strength of the city-states and the strength 
of the armies—that we shall sketch a comparison between antiquity and mod¬ 
em times. 

GDrfee Influence of Weapons on History, New York, 1945. 



2. Ideal Stability and Demographic and Political Instability 

The Greek philosophers posed the problem of what we shall call the 
population optimum^ which can scarcely surprise us, since they were not 
content with an objective, neutral study of facts and causes, but attempted 
to grasp the finality of order or of the good. The city-state, in their eyes, was 
the unit in which social life had to be organized. Thus Plato and Aristotle 
both queried not so much the ideal as the natural size of the city. Ten in¬ 
dividuals do not make a city-state, Aristotle writes, nor do ten times ten thou- 
sandPO Plato, in the Laws, suggests the number 5040. “The number 5040 
offers remarkable arithmetical properties: it is the product of seven whole 
prime numbers; therefore it has the advantage over other numbers of being 
the one which permits the greatest number of divisors. This results in great 
administrative convenience, when it is a question of subdividing the popula¬ 
tion, distributing the citizens or recruits, arranging them in columns on pub¬ 
lic registers, on tax rolls or in the field. 0 

These strange speculations are neither senseless nor even entirely anach¬ 
ronistic. The goal of the city-state, that is, of politics, is not power, but a life 
according to reason. Since the virtuous life is possible only in society, we 
must therefore determine the number of citizens that favors or makes possible 
an order that accords with reason. Two considerations are or risk being in 
conflict: the necessities of defense against an external enemy require a large 
number; moral cohesion demands a small number. The compromise must be 
within a just proportion: the city-state must be neither too small nor too large. 
An Athens of forty thousand citizens suffers from gigantism. 

“The facts prove that it is difficult if not impossible to govern properly a 
state whose population is too numerous; at least we see that none of those 
which have the reputation of being well-governed can increase its population 
without measure. This is evident and confirmed by reason: for the law is a 
certain order, and good laws necessarily constitute good order; now a too- 
numerous population cannot lend itself to the establishment of order ... a 
city-state that has too many inhabitants cannot be self-sufficient; now the 
quality of a city-state is to be self-sufficient. The city-state in which the pop¬ 
ulation is too large can no doubt care for all its needs, but then as a tribe, 
and not as a city-state. It is not easy to organize a political order there. What 
general can command an excessive multitude? . . . What herald could make 
himself heard if he had not a stentor’s voice? Therefore the city-state is nec¬ 
essarily formed once it is composed of a sufficient multitude to have all the 
conveniences of life according to the rules of political association. It is pos¬ 
sible that the city-state in which the number of inhabitants exceeds this mea¬ 
sure is still a city-state on a larger scale; but, as we have said, such excess has 

1 Nichomachean Ethics, IX, 10, 1170, b3i-32. 

BDCf. J. Moreau, “Les Theories demographiques dans 1 ’antiquite grecque,” Population, 
Alb. year, No. 4, October—December 1949, pp. 597-613. 

@Laws, V, 737e~738a. 

2 l6 


limits. And what are these limits? The facts themselves readily indicate them. 
Political acts derive from those who command or from those who obey; and 
the function of those who govern is to command and to judge. In order to 
judge the rights of each and to distribute judgments depending on merit, the 
citizens must know and appreciate each other; when this is impossible, the 
judgments are necessarily bad. In this regard, it is not just to act without 
reflection, and yet this is obviously what happens in a very populous city. 
Further, it then becomes easy for foreigners and slaves to involve themselves 
in government; for it is not difficult to escape surveillance in an excessive 
multitude of inhabitants. It is therefore obvious that the most convenient 
limit to the population of a city-state is that it should include the greatest 
possible number of inhabitants to suffice for its needs, but without surveil¬ 
lance ceasingto be easy. Let us here end what we have to say on the size of 
a city-state. 

Since the goal is a city-state that conforms to the just measure, neither too 
large nor too small, large enough to be self-sufficient and capable of defend¬ 
ing itself, small enough for the citizens to know each other and for the gov¬ 
ernment to be good, the population policy conceived by Plato or Aristotle 
tended to avoid overpopulation or depopulation. In other words it aimed at 
maintaining a stationary population, since the danger, in the classical period, 
was that of excessive numbers or of insufficient space, stenochoria. The 
Greek idea that beyond a certain size a population can no longer be governed 
according to reason has today fallen into disuse, but it was long regarded as 
obvious by Western thinkers. We find an echo of it in the first books of 
L’Esprit des lots, in which the type of government is made to correspond 
with the dimensions of the territory and where despotism is regarded as in¬ 
evitable in the vast empires of Asia. 

This ideal of stability was, in fact, the counterpart of an extreme instabil¬ 
ity of number on the one hand, and of the political fortune of collectivities 
on the other. "One generally thinks of ancient Greece as the country in 
which Athens and Sparta prevailed. But this simplified image is quite in¬ 
exact. Athens and Sparta disputed hegemony in the fifth and fourth centuries 
b.c., and were the great centers of Hellas in the period that marks the apogee 
of ancient Greek civilization, but they were such centers only at that period. 
In the Mycenaean period, the greatest centers were the city-states which, like 
Pylos or Triphylia, had ceased to exist in the classical period or, like Mycenae 
and Tiryns, had lost all importance. In the archaic period, from the eighth to 
the seventh centuries b.c., the great metropolitan centers were Chalcis and 
Eretria in Euboea, or Corinth and Megara in Greece proper. In Asia-Minor, 
they were Phocaea and Miletus. By the fourth century', the hegemony that 
Athens and Sparta had disputed in the fifth soon passed to Thebes in Beoetia, 
whose inhabitants had the reputation of being dull-witted, then to Mace- 

[i 2 l Aristotle, Politics, IV (vii), 4, 1326 aiy-b24. 



donia, which had hitherto developed on the fringe of the Hellenic world and 
which to the true Hellenes seemed only half-Greek .’0 How could fortune 
fail to be fickle when a city-state of ten thousand citizens already passed for 
a great one? 

A “giant” city-state, like Athens, had a future that was still less certain. 
The population of Athens could live only by importing a great share of its 
food, at least half, perhaps more. The city-state had begun to perform ac¬ 
tivities which, in our century, are called industrial. She was selling the prod¬ 
ucts of her mines (silver from Laurium, marble from Pentelica), of her 
artisans (ceramics, textiles, naval construction); she depended as much on 
her non-Athenian residents and her slaves as upon her customers and her 
purveyors. Yet such a dependence, at the time, had a significance entirely 
different from that of our own period. The maritime empire of Athens, grad¬ 
ually formed in the early stages by alliances among city-states against the 
Persians, was maintained only by the superiority of the fleet and the tributes 
paid by allies which had become satellites. Those economic activities which 
are not based upon the development of the means of production, which are 
linked to the primary sector (mines) or to the tertiary sector (commerce, ser¬ 
vices) have been, down through the ages, sensitive to the vicissitudes of 
military victories and defeats. In the ancient world, imperial greatness and 
wealth were in fact inseparable. 

The ideal of a stationary population was not only a reaction against the 
fickleness of fortune, but also corresponded to the excess and lack of men 
from which Greece alternately suffered. The excess of men was the source 
of the vast movement of colonization of the eighth and seventh centuries 
b.c. It was also the origin of the surplus of warriors who were ready to serve 
as mercenaries. This abundance of men dedicated to the profession of arms 
permits us to explain Alexander’s conquests. In the fourth century b.c. Greece 
was still a vast reservoir of soldiers. The unification of the city-states, even in 
servitude, created the equivalent of a great power. Independent, the city- 
states exhausted themselves in sterile conflicts. Subject to one master, they 
were capable of vast conquests. In the fourth and even more in the third 
century b.c. the contrary evil, that of oliganthro'py, was rampant. At the be¬ 
ginning of the fourth century the number of Athenian citizens diminished by 
one fourth (from forty to thirty thousand). Still more striking is the depopu¬ 
lation of Sparta. According to Herodotus, the hoplites, in 480 b.c., numbered 
eight thousand. There were no more than two thousand of them in 371, on 
the eve of the battle of Leuctra. They numbered seven hundred by the mid¬ 
dle of the third century b.c. Jean Berard quotes Polybius, who observes and 
explains the phenomenon: 

“All Greece suffers from a check in procreation and a dearth of men, such 
that the cities are depopulated because the men of the times, loving luxury, 

iiUjean B&ard, op. cit., p. 309. 

2 l8 


money, and idleness as well, no longer wish to marry, or, if they marry, to 
raise a family, and because they all consented to have two children at most 
in order to bring them up in luxury and leave them rich when they die.” 

And, commenting on the ancient historian, the modem one, discussing the 
first centuries of our era, writes: 

“The qualitative and quantitative diminution of the population which suc¬ 
cessively affects all the provinces of the Empire is particularly manifest in 
Greece. A disconcerting observation: as if security infallibly softened peoples, 
as if effort and struggle were necessary to temper them and condition them 
for a high birth rate. "EH 

In the case of Sparta, there is no doubt that the laws were the direct cause 
of the depopulation. The citizens were warriors all their lives. They had no 
right to undertake lucrative employment. In order for each man to keep 
enough funds to pay his share of the common meal, a system of inalienable 
entail had been established, which naturally exercised a Malthusian influ¬ 
ence. Similarly, in all the Greek city-states, the methods conceived to prevent 
population increase (delayed marriages, exposure of children, infanticide) 
were put into practice, even in the classical period. They were not abandoned 
in the following centuries. Malthusianism was implied by the structure of 
the city-state, by the distinction between slaves and free men, by the es¬ 
sentially political and military vocation of the citizens. 

The dimension of political units therefore exerted a major influence on the 
course of Greek history. The city-state was the typical form of the collective 
organization (whatever the causes of this organization). The city-states to¬ 
gether were capable of resisting the Persian Empire by the simple recourse 
of temporary alliances. They were capable of setting out for the conquest of 
Asia once they were subject to the will of a Philip and an Alexander. But 
when Alexander had subjected to his ambition the forces of Greece, which 
had remained unrealized in the period of jealous emulation (to borrow 
Hume’s expression), the city-states no longer had a future, a raison d’etre. De¬ 
prived of their independence without a Caesar to carry them off on some 
vast enterprise, they inexorably died out. 

How and why did a city-state, located on the fringe of the so-called Hel¬ 
lenic civilization, transcend this final stage and effect a lasting peace not only 
over the Greek city-states, as Macedonia had done, but over an incomparably 
more extensive historical space? Admirers of the Roman works, like Arnold 
Toynbee and Jerome Carcopino, emphasize characteristically political or 
moral causes. ToynbedSD lists five: a favorable geographical situation, gener¬ 
osity toward the peoples who became the allies of Rome and accepted her 
hegemony, generosity in granting Roman citizenship to allies and subjects, 
the liberal institution of double citizenship, and finally the practice of es- 

Elljean Berard, op. cit., p. 312.. 

HUA Study of History, Vol. XII, Oxford, 1961, pp. 380 ff. 



tablishing colonies in newly conquered territories. Simone Weil counters this 
analysis by another element of Roman policy whose reality is indisputable: 
the unfortunately indubitable effectiveness of terror: “No one has ever 
equaled the Romans in the skillful use of cruelty. When cruelty is the effect 
of a caprice, of a diseased sensibility, of rage, of hatred, it often has fatal 
consequences to its employer; the cold, calculated cruelty which constitutes a 
method, the cruelty which no instability of mood, no consideration of pru¬ 
dence, respect or pity can temper, which one can hope to escape by neither 
courage, dignity and energy, nor by submission, supplications and tears— 
such cruelty is an incomparable instrument of domination. For being blind 
and deaf as the forces of nature, yet clearsighted and far-seeing as human 
intelligence, by this monstrous combination it paralyzes the spirit with the 
sense of a fatality.’^ Simone Weil does not hesitate to compare the Romans 
with the Nazis, and, employing modern concepts, she comes to the following 
conclusion: "The Romans conquered the world by seriousness, discipline, 
organization, continuity of outlook and method; by the conviction that they 
were a superior race bom to command; by the calculated, methodical use of 
pitiless cruelty, of cold perfidy, of hypocritical propaganda, employed simul¬ 
taneously or alternately; by an unshakable resolve always to sacrifice every¬ 
thing to prestige, without ever being sensitive to pity, to peril, nor to any 
human respect; by the art of decomposing under terror the very soul of their 
adversaries, or of lulling them by hope before enslaving them by arms; lastly 
by so skillful a manipulation of the crudest lies that they deceived even 
posterity and deceive us still. ’EH 

It would be difficult to deny the share of this psychologico-military tech¬ 
nique in the Roman conquests as in the building of all empires. It is none¬ 
theless tme that after the terrorist phase, the generosity of the victor granting 
citizenship to the vanquished and the spread of double citizenship contrib¬ 
uted to the strengthening of Rome’s power and gave some substance to the 
eulogy of the Empire intoned by the descendants of those who had lost their 

But, curiously, neither the admirer nor the detractor of the Roman achieve¬ 
ment attempts any analysis of what was, and remains, the primary condition 
of an empire: the fortune of arms. Empire builders, by definition, generally 
gain it on the battlefield or, in any case, win the last battles. On what did 
Rome’s military superiority depend? 

On the whole, we might say that Rome did not possess an incontestable 
or overpowering superiority in the quality of weapons. Of course, the peoples 
of antiquity did not all utilize the same weapons. The mode of combat de¬ 
pended on the mode of life and the social organization. Horsemen or foot 
soldiers, heavily or lightly equipped, using impact weapons or projectiles, the 

S 3 Ecrits historia ues et volitiques, Paris, i960, p. 28. 

USlfeitJ., p. 24. 



warriors of the ancient world were not interchangeable, nor did they do 
battle according to one typical method. But the principal city-states were 
capable of procuring most kinds of arms, and if their metal was not always of 
the same quality, the fact remains that the determinant of superiority was not 
the quality of the weapons. 

The superiority of the Roman legions on the battlefield was essentially that 
of an organization, of a tactic, one might say of the capacity to maneuver. 

According to Delbriick, whose authority we accept liere as well, it was 
heavy cavalry that constituted Philip's decisive weapon: the Macedonian 
horsemen were capable of collective order in the heat of combat. The com¬ 
bination of brutality and discipline was the secret of victory at the time, since 
neither side’s weapons were fundamentally different. 

The Romans owed the fusing of their legions into tliree echelons to the 
discipline achieved by Philip with his heavy cavalry, thus making the latter’s 
men less vulnerable than the Spartan, Theban and Macedonian phalanx. 
Whereas the latter was incapable of protecting itself on its flanks or at the 
rear, the Roman legion, even after the outset of the encounter, could reverse 
its fronts. Whether it be Philip’s cavalry or the legions of Rome, their greatest 
effectiveness lay in the category of "capacity for collective action." This 
original order of battle generally requires some modification in armament, a 
new combination of types of combatants and of combat weapons (longer or 
shorter spears, heavier or lighter body armor, different distribution of infantry 
and cavalry, etc.). But above all, the superiority based on a capacity for col¬ 
lective action, in the realm of military disciplined is not immediately trans¬ 
missible, for it is linked to the social structure and requires a considerable 
training. The Romans gradually perfected the legion’s organization, tactics 
and armament; they developed its effectiveness under fire; but they would 
never have possessed such an instrument of war had the struggle with Car¬ 
thage not transformed the mobilized citizens into professionals^ 

The capacity of the Roman legions for maneuver was one necessary con¬ 
dition of its victories; the number of legionnaires was another. In periods of 
crisis the degree of mobilization was, in Rome, exceptionally high, io pei 
cent of the free population, 30 per cent of the adult males, according to this 
same author.^ Rome’s “generosity” to her conquered enemies permitted hei 
to enlarge her armed forces as the zone of Roman sovereignty increased. Nc 
matter how enormous this zone was, the Romans generally equaled or out¬ 
numbered their enemies on the battlefield. The Empire was not maintained 

Nh. Delbriick, I, 1, p. 239. 
lllRbid., pp. 277 and 333. 

EUH. Delbriick estimates at a million the free population of Rome at the beginning 
of the Second Punic War. The mobilization of twenty-two to twenty-three legions, ir 
212 or 211 b.c., represents a considerable effort. 



by the prestige of a small minority, but by the permanent mobilization of the 

The power of the Roman legions was nonetheless limited in space. As a 
result of the immensity of their territory, its forests and sparse population, the 
Germans escaped, whether for their good or evil fortune, the fate of the Celts 
of Gaul. The Germans were not Romanized, they continued to speak their 
Ursprache, an original language and not one derived from that of the con¬ 
querors. Confronting the Parthian Empire, Rome was content with a peace of 

Of these elements of the Roman success, that of number (the number of 
combatants) is almost always omitted, while the maneuverability of the le¬ 
gions is scarcely indicated and intentionally identified with virtue. Now ef¬ 
fectiveness in action deserves to be regarded as a political if not a moral 
virtue, but it implies neither cultural or spiritual values. Since the historians 
have paid homage to the Roman virtu of the imperial edifice, they cannot 
fail to attribute the decline to corruption. Military force is a function 
of the number of soldiers the Empire can mobilize, of the discipline of the 
legions, of their martial ardor. When the legions include more and more 
barbarians, and are incapable of raising an impenetrable blockade on the 
frontiers and sometimes even of conquering on the battlefield, it is evident 
that the system is weakening, a weakness which reflects the decomposition of 
the state and the loss of civic virtues^ 

It is difficult for the historians, after having exalted the Roman Empire, 
not to deplore its fall. But it would be paradoxical, in a period when we de¬ 
nounce the colonial empires under the name of colonialism, still to take the 
side of the conquerors without reservations. 

3. The French Experience 

According to the Greek philosophers, a sufficient number is a condition of 
security, but security’s goal is friendship among the citizens, impossible in a 
city-state whose population is too numerous. According to modern authors, 
number is the condition of power and the latter, in its turn, a condition of 
rank. Since nations are engaged in a permanent rivalry and since some of 
them grow' rapidly, the others must do the same, or risk decadence. The 
comparison of rates of growth, both demographic and economic, is substituted 
for the search for the mean. 

A century ago, in a book which enjoyed a tremendous success, Prevost- 
Paradol wrote: “When the present leader of our country declares that a na¬ 
tion’s rank is measured by the number of men it can arm, he has only given 

[HI For example, Jerome Carcopino writes in Les Eta-pes de I’imperialisme romain, Paris, 
1961: “Rome’s military decadence can, on reflection, be reduced to two causes which 
no longer function in our modern world: the sudden multiplication of enemies whose 
weapons were virtually equivalent to her own and the specialization of a professional 
army whose civic ardor would be harmed.” 



too absolute a form to a true idea, for we must take into account the relative 
quality of men as well as their number. Xerxes, for example, armed infinitely 
more men than Greece, and yet the great spirit of Greece conquered him. 
But in a case of nations equally civilized and of courageous citizens equally 
sustained by a sense of honor, this maxim becomes strictly true, and political 
and military ascendancy goes to the most numerous nation, with all the ma¬ 
terial and moral advantages which derive from it.’® 

It is in France, the first European nation affected by the lowering of the 
birth rate, that the various problems of number have been looked upon with 
most anxiety. The first theme is the one which the preceding quotation ex¬ 
presses: to what degree is there a proportion between a nation’s size, the 
strength of its army and its place in the world? The second problem is raised 
by France’s conquests in the nineteenth century: is it possible to compensate 
by recruiting soldiers in Asia and Africa for the relative decline of metro¬ 
politan France? 

By the thirties another fear was expressed: did not demographic stagnation 
involve economic stagnation? Far from small families guaranteeing the for¬ 
tune of each child, experience proves that in dynamic and not static con¬ 
sideration, in national and not microscopic accounting, the result is entirely 
different. Demographic growth, at least in certain cases, provokes a more 
than proportional growth in resources. 

Finally, since the Second World War, it is no longer France but the West 
which apprehensively questions the comparative statistics of populations. Will 
not the disparity between the standard of living of the privileged white mi¬ 
nority and that of the colored masses be increased by a disparity in the op¬ 
posite direction, numerical growth being faster precisely where poverty 
makes numerical stabilization desirable? 

If we take an inclusive view of France’s experience in Europe in the last 
century, it seems difficult to deny that the law of number has functioned. 
There were about 28 million Frenchmen in 1800, 4T.9 million in 1940. Over 
the same period the population of the United Kingdom increased from 11 (16 
with Ireland) to 46.4 million, that of Germany from 22.5 to 70 million, that 
of Italy from 18 to 44 million,^ that of the United States from 5.3 to 131.7 
million. The population of Tsarist Russia, known with less exactitude, in¬ 
creased about two and a half times during the nineteenth century. 

In 1800 France with 28.2 million represented 15 per cent of the European 
population; Austria-FIungary, with 28 million, 15 per cent; Italy with 18 mil¬ 
lion, 9.2 per cent; Germany with 23 million, 13 per cent; the British Isles 
(including Ireland) 9 per cent; Russia, with 40 million, 21 per cent. In 

f 20 jLa France nouvelle, Paris, 1868, p. 174. 

These figures do not take emigration into account. The nations whose population: 
rapidly increased could, at the same time, contribute to the population of America 
and the Dominions: 17 million people left the United Kingdom between 1825 and 
1920, 6 million Germans emigrated to the United States during the same period, and 
9 million Italians between 1876 and 1925. 



1900 France’s percentage had fallen to 10 (40.7 million); Austria’s to 12 (50 
million); Germany’s had risen to 14 (56.4 million); Great Britain’s to 10.6 
(41.5 million); Russia’s to 24 (100 million). In the twentieth century the 
comparison between France and her European rivals is still more unfavorable. 
France’s population is not increasing at all, that of her rivals continues to do 

In general, the relation of forces follows fluctuations in size. Yet some 
reservations immediately come to mind. At the beginning of the nineteenth 
century, England played a part on the world stage out of proportion to her 
human resources. Her island position, as long as she had no battle to wage 
on the Continent, afforded incomparable advantages (which no longer exist 
today). In the contrary sense, the case of Russia reminds us that the law of 
number functions, in our times, only in combination with the law of the 
number of machines. In 1914, lacking adequate industrialization, and lacking 
too, perhaps, a political regime capable of leading the nation, Russia’s strength 
was far from being proportional to her population statistics. 

In France’s case, success in war was not directly determined by number in 
1870 or in 1939. In 1870, assuming that the major cause of the initial de¬ 
feats was the numerical inferiority of the imperial armies, this inferiority was 
attributable to the military system, not to the nation’s human resources (which 
were, at the time, of the same order as the enemy’s). Similarly, though the 
superiority of the Third Reich’s human and industrial potential to that of 
France was enormous, it was not this superiority which determined the over¬ 
whelming victory of May-June 1940. The numerical superiority of tanks and 
above all of planes was one 'of the causes of the lightning campaign, but the 
principal cause was a piece of inspired strategy (the plan proposed by General 
von Manstein to split the Franco-English armies along the Ardennes hinge) 
and an original tactic, a new combination of firepower and mobility, assault 
tanks functioning en masse and planes attacking the combatants and the im¬ 
mediate rear lines of the battlefield. It was in 1914-18 and at the end of the 
1939-45 conflict that the Second and the Third Reich were finally over¬ 
whelmed by number—the preponderance of soldiers and still more of cannon, 
tanks and planes. 

France’s European experience reveals the influence of number on the course 
of diplomatic and military history, hut more subtly. Indeed, if France nearly 
perished from the victory of 1918, she was tragically saved by her defeat of 
1940. Of all the belligerents, it was France that, from 1914 to 1918, made, 
relatively speaking, the most considerable efforts, in both industrial and in 
human mobilization, and it was also France that suffered proportionally the 
highest losses (nearly 1.4 million men as opposed to 2 million in Germany). 
At the peace conference France shone with a glory that was dearly won, hut 
she was also, without a sudden rise in her birth rate, the most weakened of 
all the European nations. In 1940, with a military establishment adapted to 
mechanized and motorized war, France—in theory—could have fought for 



months, perhaps for a year or even two. While the battle continued in the 
West, the Soviet Union would have played the role of tertius gaudens and 
the Anglo-American forces would have left to France the heaviest burden. 
Yet German war industry, reinforced by that of central Europe (Czecho¬ 
slovakia, Austria) outclassed that of France (that of England would not have 
been mobilized before 1942). In 1941 Germany could have put several dozen 
additional divisions into the lines. Had the French campaign lasted twelve 
to eighteen months, material destruction and human losses would have been 
three or four times greater, perhaps more. Would France have recovered, 
after a new bloodlettingf^H 

The paradox of France’s recent history is the coincidence of demographic 
decline and imperial expansion. It is tempting to resolve this paradox by ex¬ 
plaining the latter by the former, France seeking in Africa a reservoir of 
additional manpower to re-establish equilibrium with her rivals’ potential. 

Such an interpretation is almost the only one which gives an apparent 
rationality to France’s foreign policy, particularly under the Third Republic. 
Why did France, which had neither a surplus of men nor of manufactured 
products to export, why did the opportunist, then radical Republic conquer 
the second largest colonial empire in the world? Of course, the historians 
who are content with historical explanations—explanations which philoso¬ 
phers and sociologists delight in heaping with scorn—may recall that once 
the city of Algiers was taken, it was even more difficult to evacuate Algeria 
entirely than to complete its occupation HD Subsequently, French Algeria 
could not be secure unless it was shielded by a double protectorate over 
Tunisia and Morocco. As for the race for equatorial Africa QAfrique noire), 
it was European rather than specifically French. France’s originality was the 
ideology of her civilizing mission, which implied a certain assimilation of 
the colonies to metropolitan France. Conscription was the first translation of 
this doctrine, not devoid of a certain abstract generosity. 

The reinforcement of the conqueror by his conquests and the mobilization 
of the conquered are endemic phenomena down through the centuries. Even 
in i960, despite the almost universal diffusion of nationalism, thousands of 
Moslems fought under the French flag, perhaps indifferent to the nation the 
FLN claimed to be, or animated by resentment against the underground 
fighters, or simply impelled by poverty. Rarely, in the past, have men known 

HUAnd would the war itself have been won had the British finally lost their expedi¬ 
tionary corps after a year of battle? 

iMlln a speech to the Chamber of Deputies on January 15, 1840, General Bugeaud 
said: "Limited occupation seems to me a chimera and a dangerous chimera.” Later in 
the same speech: “Abandonment: official France, to employ an expression not in my 
habitual vocabulary, official France does not want it; that is, the writers, the 
aristocracy of the inkwell, do not want it.” And lastly: “Yes, in my opinion, the tak¬ 
ing of Algiers is a mistake; but, since you want to take it, since it is impossible for 
you not to take it, you must do so on a grand scale, for that is the only way to 
obtain results. Therefore the whole country must be conquered and the power of Abd- 
el-Kader destroyed. . . .” The speech is published in Par Ve-pee et far la charrue, 
Bugeaud’s writings and speeches, Paris, 1948, pp. 61-71. 



(or needed to know) why they were fighting. Loyalty to the leader, submis¬ 
sion to the existing order, pure and simple discipline have constituted the 
cement of armies more often than faith in a nation or in an idea. 

In this regard, the European empires, until 1945, have followed the ex¬ 
ample of their predecessors. The United Kingdom could not have exerted a 
dominant influence in Asia and in the Near East if it had not had the Indian 
army with which to complement the Royal Navy. It was with the Indian 
army, under British command even when the majority of the officers were 
Indian, that the Crown imposed peace from the Persian Gulf to the Suez 
Canal and, eastward, to the borders of Indo-China. Similarly, Algerians, 
Moroccans and Senegalese fought on the battlefields of World War I. Thus 
Algerians had contributed to the pacification of their own country as they 
had participated in the remotest conquests of the French Republic. 

Does the reinforcement of the metropolitan army by the mobilization of 
non-native populations have as its condition or limit a specific percentage of 
non-Romans in the Roman legions, of Vietnamese in the French expedition¬ 
ary corps in Indo-China, of Africans in the African army? It is obvious that 
in each period it is dangerous to exceed a certain percentage, yet this per¬ 
centage is not always the same. 

In our period the British Indian army or the French African army on the 
one hand, the “yellowing” of the French expeditionary corps in Indo-China 
on the other, differ fundamentally. The British Indian army faithfully served 
the Crown during World War II, despite the Congress party’s refusal to 
cooperate. Similarly, the Moroccan regiments, of which only the officers and, 
to a degree, the non-commissioned officers were French, fought for France in 
1939-40, in 1943-45 ar) d, even in Indo-China, until 1954. If France had 
pursued a policy of force in North Africa for a few years more, would the 
Moroccan troops under French command have remained loyal? Would the 
more than two hundred Moroccan officers in the regular cadres of the French 
army have yielded to the nationalism which animated their compatriots? We 
do not know. In fact, these armies have tended, in our period, to abide by 
a strictly military discipline—which does not mean that the best-organized 
troops remain insensitive to the passions of the people from which the soldiers 
have been recruited. 

The integration, in a relatively high proportion though scarcely more than 
a third, of Vietnamese or Algerians in metropolitan units already represents 
a half-surrender. The government can no longer trust heterogeneous con¬ 
tingents whose officers alone are recruited from the imperial population. The 
command accepts a loss of effectiveness, accommodates itself in advance to 
the anticipated desertions. The method is dangerous: in case of a reverse, the 
number of desertions rises steeply (as was discovered in Indo-China, after 

Is the imperial capacity to mobilize subject populations a function of the 
numerical relation between the latter and the imperial population? Number, 



in this crude form, does not decide the fate of empires. If such were the 
case, the British Empire would never have existed. But the British Empire 
is, in many respects, exceptional. That a people numerically so inferior could 
rule so many territories, so many millions of men without even submitting 
to the demands of obligatory military service, that the sailors, the subjects, 
and relatively few professionals could maintain the Empire was a miracle 
requiring abnormal circumstances as well as political genius. This empire, if 
it was one of the largest history has ever known, was also, in the scale of 
centuries, one of the briefest. England ruled from afar by the intermediary 
of her Indian Empire. It was difficult to transform India into a modern state 
in military and administrative terms without provoking national claims. Ulti¬ 
mately, the relation between conquerors and conquered develops either to¬ 
ward integration into a single community or dissociation into two distinct 
collectivities. In one way or another the strictly military inequality is forgotten 
or effaced. Equality tends to be re-established either by enlarging imperial 
citizenshipP^or by the autonomy or independence of the non-national pop¬ 
ulations. The British were numerically too inferior, too conscious of their 
race, possessed lands too remote and governed populations too heterogeneous 
to envisage another conclusion than the disintegration of the Empire into 
many totally sovereign political units (despite a Commonwealth which, in 
the eyes of the non-British, seems increasingly fictitious). 

The numerical disproportion within the French Empire between imperial 
and non-French populations was less extreme, yet could not produce another 
result. Integration, another name for assimilationpll requires that citizenship, 
whether Roman or French, be offered to the subject peoples. It raises the 
latter to the dignity of citizens, but it condemns them to competing for posts 
with the citizens bom in Rome or in France. 

The nature of modem economy renders difficult an imperial policy of in¬ 
tegration which does not tolerate too great a disparity in the standard of living 
between parts of the same whole (particularly when men themselves have 
neither the same language nor customs). But, aside from these reasons of an 
economic orderjUl citizenship satisfies the non-national populations only on 
two conditions: it must be desired and received as an honor, and it must 
offer more opportunities than it retracts. Even in 1936, full French citizen¬ 
ship would have been regarded by the Algerians as an honor. In i960 it was 

ElThe inequality may exist between citizens and non-citizens or, within the single 
community, between castes whose origin and hierarchy date back to the conquest. 
Within political units the social inequalities may be, in part, the crystallization of the 
relations of military forces. 

UlThe integration of non-national populations in a metropolitan political unit does not 
imply the suppression of particularities of language, religion and customs, which as¬ 
similation seems to suggest. But these two words imply the uniformity of political 

[HlWhich we shall study in the next chapter. 



an honor no longer. How many Algerians, in a French Algeria, competing 
with those of French stock, could raise themselves to that society’s highest 

The disintegration of the French Empire, which various events precipi¬ 
tated, was the logical conclusion of conquests which the stagnation of the 
French population rendered precarious from the start. France could arm the 
soldiers recruited among the non-French populations; she could not grant 
French citizenship to the populations themselves, universally and without 
reservations. She was unwilling to grant that citizenship as long as it was 
desired. She offered it in vain the day the elites of the formerly subject 
peoples aspired to the responsibilities and advantages of state sovereignty. 

We must observe, with the insight afforded by the knowledge of a future 
which is now the past, that the hope (cherished by several authors of the last 
century) of compensating the relative decline of French population by Afri¬ 
can conquests was illusory. If the declining birth rate had been ascribable 
to lack of space, the annexation of Algeria would have sufficed to bring this 
deplored development to an end. But was it enough that Frenchmen should 
consent to cross the Mediterranean for their fertility to become again what it 
had been in centuries past and that their children should survive, as in Can¬ 
ada? In French Algeria it was not the European minority but the Moslem 
majority that multiplied. The French Empire in the Mediterranean, of which 
Prevost-Paradol dreamed and in which he saw the supreme hope that France, 
in a universe dominated by the Anglo-Saxons, would avoid a fate comparable 
to that of Athens in the Roman Empire, disintegrated because it was popu¬ 
lated not by citizens but by subjects. We may remark, with a certain sadness, 
that the conclusion is more in accord with the laws of history than the en¬ 
terprise itself; a nation with a dwindling population has little likelihood of 
preserving an empire, even when it finds an occasion to build one. 

The fact that colonization temporarily reinforced the power of metropolitan 
France does not mean that decolonization is always a cause of diminution. It 
is false, in fact, to compare what the independence of the colonies or pro¬ 
tectorates costs the metropolitan country with the profit it derives from these 
same territories and populations when it exercises a peaceful authority there. 
In Africa, for instance, France obviously loses military bases, a potential 
source of soldiers, a vast zone of sovereignty, which afforded both prestige 
and means of action. But we must compare the cost of a rejected decoloniza¬ 
tion with that of a decolonization accepted in time. Would France have been 
more powerful between 1946 and 1954 without the Indo-Chinese War? 
Would she be more powerful today had she come to terms with Ho Chi 
Minh in 1946 or in 1947? Was she reinforced or weakened by the Algerian 
conflict? In 1840 Marshal Bugeaud considered that the maintenance of some 
hundred thousand soldiers on the other side of the Mediterranean weakened 
France on the principal terrain, i.e., the Rhine frontier. The same question 
could have been asked in i960. 



In other words, empires are a source of strength as long as they are cheaply 
held. In 1961 there were as many soldiers in Algeria as there were adult 
Europeans to protect. Bugeaud’s colons, instead of guaranteeing French 
peace, cannot remain among the Moslem masses except when each is flanked 
by an armed man from metropolitan France. When an empire requires more 
troops than it furnishes, what is the most rational policy, by realistic calcula¬ 
tion: abandonment or resistance^! 

French defeatism, nourished in the mid-nineteenth century by little else 
other than the relative decline in the population, was aggravated, in the 
twentieth, by the relative slowness of economic growth and by the theory that 
paired demographic with economic stagnation. States would be doubly weak¬ 
ened if their populations were stationary or decreasing: they would possess 
fewer soldiers and fewer workers; the labor output or, if one prefers, the per 
capita income would be less or would rise less quickly than in nations with 
high birth rates. 

To deal with this problem completely, we should have to envisage it 
from two points of view: WTat is the influence of the demographic movement 
on the economic movement? What, inversely, is the influence of the latter 
on the former? We shall say only a word concerning this second question. 
The demographers are far from agreed as to the facts and their interpretations, 
even when they confine themselves to recent centuriesP^ Some believe that 
the increase in the number of men, from the sixteenth or seventeenth century, 
has been relatively independent, since we observe it even on the continents 
which exhibit little or no economic advance. The population of China be¬ 
tween 1650 and 1930 rose, according to some, from 70 to 340 million, accord¬ 
ing to others, from 150 to 450 million. If the demographic movement, in 
certain cases, does not seem subordinate to the increase of resources (improve¬ 
ment of production techniques, commercial organization, security, etc.),^ 
must we attribute it to the changing vitality of populations? Or does the ap¬ 
parently biological formula of vitality conceal many complex phenomena of 
a social order? 

With regard to the contrary influence—of the number of men on the 
volume of resources—everything depends, of course, on the elasticity of re¬ 
sources (which varies according to the period) and the density of the exist¬ 
ing population. We might posit constant technical means (as Montesquieu im- 
plicity does): the elasticity of resources, and hence of the number of men, 
will be a function of social causes such as public order, distribution of 

IH The numerical relation between the metropolitan troops needed to build the empire 
and the contingents raised within the empire depends on the numerical relation on 
the battlefield between regular troops and rebels. This question is discussed below. 
ISSJCf. E. F. Wagemann, Menschenzahl und Volkerschicksal, Lehre von den optimalen 
Dimensionen Gesellschaftlicher Gebilde, Hamburg, 1948. 

ESlThe introduction of the potato, according to William Langer, was the principal 
cause of the European and Asian population increase in the seventeenth century. 



property, balance of foreign trade, importance of arts or industry. It would 
occur to no one, today, to posit constant technical means. Indeed the danger 
is the converse one. Analysis posits as a possible population the one which 
could live by the application of known techniques, and not the one defined 
as a function of the technique which the population under consideration is 
actually capable of putting into effect. 

Abstractly, the economic-demographic potential, like the military poten¬ 
tial, depends on three variables: space, tools, capacity for collective action 
(for production or combat). Traditionally, analysis aimed chiefly at determin¬ 
ing at what point the curve of average individual production reversed its 
direction. Whatever the technical level, a certain population volume is neces¬ 
sary to exploit a territory, to profit from the division of labor, from the addi¬ 
tion made to individual productivity by the productive force bom of coopera¬ 
tion. The welfare optimum occurs at the point where the law of decreasing 
returns begins to function, that is, when the productivity of the additional 
worker becomes inferior to the average productivity. It is easy to conceive of a 
plurality of points of welfare optimum in terms of the social organization 
and technological means. Technological and economic progress is defined 
precisely by the fact that it displaces the point where the curve of average 
productivity (relation between total production and number of workers) 
changes direction. The welfare optimum differs from the power optimum, 
if we agree that power is measured by the material and human resources 
the state possesses to achieve its external goals. The additional worker who 
produces less than average, beyond the point of optimum welfare, produces 
still more than the minimum indispensable for subsistence. The state is in 
a position to take a share of this production from the additional worker. 
The average revenue decreases, the state’s resources increase. 

These theoretical definitions, which we borrow from Alfred SauvypS 
illuminate an idea which is treated by most authors in this realm. Given 
a technology and a social organization, the preoccupation with political-mili¬ 
tary power often inspires the desire for a population size superior to that 
which the mere consideration of welfare would suggest. The "dominant” 
minority wants as many subjects as possible, not only to recruit soldiers 
but to levy taxes with which they will maintain state and armies. 

In our period, the absolute figures of economic growth, the statistics of 
the national product—gross or net—simultaneously include the results of the 
increase in the number of men and the results of individual productivity. A 
population which grows rapidly may have a national product which also 
increases rapidly without any consequent improvement in individual pro¬ 
ductivity. On the other hand, a static population is capable of economic 
growth insofar as the average productivity increases either because the worker 
produces more at the same job or because workers shift frrom jobs with low 

\Mirheorie generate la population, 2 vols., Paris, 1952 and 1954. 



productivity to jobs with high productivity. The relation, which French ex¬ 
perience has at least made likely, would be as follows: the slowing down of 
increase in the number of men would contribute (sometimes? often? always?) 
to slackening the increase in productivity. In an industrial age, military 
strength depends as much on labor productivity as on the number of men 
(the higher the productivity, the greater the margin of resources, above 
the subsistence level, of which the state can take a share). The demo¬ 
graphic decline, in this hypothesis, would doubly involve a political-military 
decline: by the diminution or at least slackened augmentation of the human 
as well as the economic potential. 

There is no doubt that the French national product, between 1850 and 
1913, increased less than that of Germany. The former, according to the 
figures of Colin Clarlc^ shifted, between these two dates, from 16.6 to 36 
billion francs, the latter, from 10.6 to 50 billion marks. In the first case it 
slightly more than doubled, in the second it almost quintupled. The disparity 
is less if we eliminate the influence of number and consider the real product 
per employed person. The latter, in France, shifts from 426 in 1850-59 to 
627 in 1911 (in international units), in Germany from 406 to 930. 

Theoretically, a low birth rate creates circumstances favorable to growth. 
A family with only two children has greater possibilities for savings. The 
collectivity has fewer investments to make for the education of the younger 
generation, and is in a position to invest more for each employed worker. 
But, in the case of the French, other causes have been of more importance. 
Growth is not determined by specifically economic causes alone, or at least 
the latter (volume of savings, encouragement to invest, etc.) are in turn 
controlled by attitudes adopted by the economic subjects (entrepreneurs, the 
state). It is conceivable that demographic stagnation encourages attitudes un¬ 
favorable to growth. 

That this was the case, in France, in the nineteenth century and in the 
first half of the twentieth, statistics do not permit us to doubt. But the 
precise action of demographic stagnation on the conservative attitude of the 
bourgeoisie or of the French state is not easily isolated. Neither the leg¬ 
islation nor the ideology of French society was oriented toward growth. 
That demographic stagnation permitted conservatism cannot be disputed. That 
it made conservatism inevitable cannot be ascertained. That in the absence of 
demographic growth, nations are doomed to a rate of little or no economic 
growth has not been proved. 

At present the phenomena of expansion are better known than they once 
were. The authorities responsible, in a planned regime, have the means of 
determining the increase in investment, which of itself determines, to a 
degree, the rate of expansion. Even in a regime of the Western type, the state 

H 3 Conditions of Economic Progress, 2nd edition, London, 1951. 


23 1 

has means of intervening to correct, whether rising or falling Cmore naturally 
when rising), the rate of expansion which results when the mechanism is 
left to itself or from the spontaneous behavior of the economic subjects. 

In France, where the population was stagnant and the knowledge of the 
economic phenomena inadequate, expansion was relatively rapid between 
1900 and 1910, again between 1920 and 1929. The 1930—39 depression 
can be attributed to circumstances. Certainly the Japanese and German eco¬ 
nomic "miracles” after World War II do not gainsay the lesson of the French 
experience. The return to the Japanese islands of some seven million men 
after the defeat, and of more than ten million men to Federal Germany, 
created a population pressure which constituted the equivalent of a high 
birth rate. Yet, no one dares assert that economic expansion will necessarily 
slacken once the generations replace each other without numerically increas¬ 
ing. The graph of the number of men, the graph of the average productivity 
are not independent of each other, but they are not linked to each other by 
the direct and unconditional causality of numerical increase over that of pro¬ 

Are the fears of the French, which started in the middle of the last 
century, now spreading to the West as a whole? Lately, France has advanced 
less rapidly than her rivals in the Old World. Are the Western powers, taken 
as a whole, being outstripped in the race for numerical superiority? Before 
answering this last question, I should like to discuss the so-called demographic 
theory of wars, according to which societies fight in order to eliminate the 
surplus of men, this elimination being indispensable. 

4. Overpopulation and War 

One fact is evident, incontestable: war consists in killing men, or if a 
more neutral formula is preferred, war has as its constant result the death 
of men. The hunter kills animals, the warrior kills his own kind. A first 
version of the theory we are examining is afforded by the shift from the 
constant effect to that of function. Since every war reduces the number 
of living men, may we not say that numerical reduction is the social function 
of this singular pheomenon that is simultaneously social and antisocial? Then 
we can formulate another version of the same theory: if war kills, it is 
because there are too many men alive. All societies have waged war: if there 
is no other datum than the surplus of men which appears down through 
the ages with the same regularity as war, must we not conclude that the 
general cause of the phenomenon of war is quite simply this surplus of 

The shift from constant effect to function seems to me, for methodological 

Eil n France it is Gaston Bouthoul who has most forcefully presented the so-called 
demographic theory of war. We refer the reader to his principal work, Les Guerres. 
Elements de polemologie, Paris, 1951. 



reasons, either problematical or else meaningless. To assert that a constant 
effect reveals the goal of the phenomenon under consideration implies a 
teleological mode of interpretation of a rather crude type. The common 
character of all wars does not necessarily express the essence of armed con¬ 
flicts. The death of men can be the inevitable accompaniment of other ef¬ 
fects or other functions of wars, the reinforcement of existing collectivities 
or the constitution of new collectivities. 

The numerical reduction of the living is not the only result of armed 
conflicts between political units. Such conflicts always have an effect on the 
units: either they consolidate their inner coherence and their separation in 
relation to others, or else they create a new unit which absorbs the belligerent 
units. If we observe states and their wars statically, we are inclined to see 
the latter as a rupture of the social links—as Sorokin says, an example of 
anomie. If we consider wars down through history, we cannot fail to see in 
them an elasticity of movement, more precisely, of the progressive widening of 
the zones of sovereignty, hence of the zones of peace. 

Let us add Anally that wars are not always bloody; they far from effectively 
fulfill, in every circumstance, the function attributed to them. Epidemics 
annihilate with far more rapidity. Even in Europe, after the Great War of 
1914-18, Spanish influenza cut down about as many men as the machine 
gun had in four years. The rites or regulations which preside over combats 
often have the effect of reducing losses—that is to say cost, the concern of 
the moralist, effectiveness of methods, that of the sociologist, who believes 
that the function of war is to provoke a “demographic relaxation.” 

Let us now consider not the function but the cause, first repeating the 
same reasoning: the surplus of the living (whatever the manner in which 
this surplus is evaluated) is not the only phenomenon which we observe as 
regularly as war. The division of humanity into politically distinct units is 
also present wherever the phenomenon of war occurs. To reason that the 
final cause of war is the phenomenon which always precedes or accompanies 
it does not seem to me to he valid: it implies, in effect, that all wars belong 
to the same species. But even if we regard this reasoning as valid, it does not 
conform to the so-called demographic theory. There is, in fact, at least one 
social phenomenon that occurs throughout the history of civilizations as 
regularly as the surplus of men: namely, the plurality of collectivities, political 
units being the expression, in the form of military sovereignty, of the plurality 
of social entities, one might almost say of social humanities. 

Going beyond these generalities, how may we demonstrate or refute the 
thesis which maintains that overpopulation is the cause of war, of the pro¬ 
pensity of autonomous collectivities to fight each other? Since the “method of 
presence” does not afford the desired proof, the cause envisaged not being 
the only one regularly present whenever the phenomenon to be explained ap¬ 
pears, we might turn to the "method of absence.” When overpopulation is 
eliminated, do collectivities cease to wage war? Unfortunately, for humanity 



as a whole, this is only an intellectual experiment, for, according to the very 
theory we are discussing, overpopulation is endemic. 

Partial experiments have been made by history: Does a bellicose nation 
become peaceful when the population pressure diminishes? Did imperialist 
France of the Revolution and the Empire become peaceful in the nineteenth 
century with the lowering of the birth rate? Did romantic Germany become 
imperialist as the number of Germans—of young Germans—increased? Let us 
note first of all that France, supposedly converted to pacifism, certainly fought 
no fewer wars in the last century than during the preceding ones. She has 
fought more in the twentieth century. That Germany has replaced France 
as “troublemaker” is incontestable, but proves nothing more than a kind of 
imbecile truism: the state which appears to threaten the freedom of others 
is, in every period, the one whose strength increases fastest. In 1850 France 
was no longer the “troublemaker” of the European system, just as the Bonn 
Republic, in 1950, was no longer the troublemaker of the global system. Do 
the sentiments of men automatically conform to their diplomatic role? This 
is highly doubtful. Outbursts of aggressive chauvinism have been frequent 
in France during the last century. Japan after 1945, confined to her islands 
with a higher population density than in 1938, is as peaceful, even anti¬ 
militarist, as it was imperialist twenty years ago. 

To transcend the oscillation between a vague and a likely proposition- 
war, which results in the death of men, must be linked to the facts of demog¬ 
raphy—and precise and unproved propositions, we must first of all define more 
rigorously the phenomenon to which we impute a causal action: overpopula¬ 
tion or population pressure. It goes without saying that the number of men 
does not adequately measure the population pressure. In the eighteenth cen¬ 
tury France would have been overpopulated by forty million people, today 
it is underpopulated by the same number. Two centuries ago a figure of 
forty-five million would have been above the welfare optimum and the power 
optimum; today it is certainly inferior to the second, and in all probability to 
the first. 

Overpopulation, in a given space, is defined in relation to resources, them¬ 
selves a function of technological means. But if it is absurd to evaluate 
population pressure by population figures alone, it would not be any more 
rational to measure it by referring to the number of men capable of living 
in that space if they used all the methods that science and industry afford. 
By this second method we would arrive at Sauvy’s conclusion, according 
to which only Holland experiences absolute overpopulation!!: the number 
of people in that country would involve a diminution of per capita income, 
even using the most advanced methods of production. We must further add 
“diminution of average income in relation to welfare optimum,” that is, in 

[^Moreover, according to Sauvy ( [Population , July i960), the per capita income, in 
Holland, continues to increase faster than in the nations of stagnant population. 



relation to the income each man might enjoy if there were fewer men. This 
diminution in relation to a theoretical optimum does not involve an actual 
diminution: quite the contrary, in the case of Holland, total expansion con¬ 
tinues, the per capita production increases. It is the statistician who decrees 
that this production would increase faster if it were not for the law of dimin¬ 
ishing returns—if the investments necessary to win an additional area of 
cultivable land from the sea did not also increase with the rise in population. 

In other words, in order to define the notion of overpopulation we must 
simultaneously consider space, means of production and social organization. 
When the geologists or biologists tell us that eight or ten billion human 
beings could live in comfort on the planet today, provided they applied the 
knowledge that they have acquired, they are telling us something about sci¬ 
ence but little about society. The volume of the world harvest of tea or rice 
which would result from the diffusion of the Japanese methods is interesting 
in itself. It indicates the margins still available to growth, but leaves us in 
complete ignorance as to overpopulation as a social fact and the eventual 
influence of this fact on the frequency or intensity of wars. 

Must we no longer define overpopulation in static but in dynamic terms, 
assuming overpopulation to exist when the number curve rises faster than 
that of resources? 3 * Such a definition would be satisfactory if each society 
were homogeneous, if all societies were of the same kind. In the past, dis¬ 
tribution of income has sometimes been such that the misery of the masses 
rose with their numerical increase (lowering of wages), while the wealth 
of the privileged also increased. Do we speak of overpopulation in this case? 
It is a question, it seems to me, of overpopulation if the latter is characterized 
by “the impoverishment of the great number” (that is, the impoverishment of 
the people because the people become increasingly numerous). Yet the com¬ 
parison of the graph of number and that of resources would not confirm 
overpopulation, according to the preceding definition. Further, the rapid in¬ 
crease of number, the accumulation of young men, a typical European 
phenomenon in the nineteenth century, one which Bouthoul considers char¬ 
acteristic of an explosive situation, is not contained within the concept of 
overpopulation as defined by the comparison between the graph of number 
and the graph of resources. The European population increased in the nine¬ 
teenth century more than in any other, though millions of men, as we have 
seen, emigrated. The increase in the number of men remaining on the soil 
of the Old World was considerable without the graph of number ever rising 
faster than that of resources. The German per capita income continued to 
increase until 1914: hence there was no overpopulation, in the strict sense 
of the term. Were the Germans warlike out of simple biological vitality? 

I myself had envisaged another definition: might we not say that there 
is a surplus of men once a certain number among them, idle by constraint, 

E3Cfi G. Bouthoul, of. cit. 


23 ? 

as a result of social circumstances, are available for tbe profession of arms, 
because their elimination would not bring about a decrease of production? I 
must conclude, upon reflection, that the phenomenon thus defined, which I 
shall henceforth call surplus of men, is too frequent to permit a study of all 
the relations between number and belligerence. The ancient societies had a 
permanent “surplus of men” of this land. The very notion refers to a society 
in which labor is regarded as a primary activity, and combat as a kind of 
luxury: the opposite being the case for the citizens of the Greek city-states. 
The obvious fact that labor was necessary to insure existence was not over¬ 
looked, but it was to politics and war that the citizen devoted himself. In the 
European societies which did not know slavery and in which only the nobles 
had the duty of risking their lives in combat, the rigidity of the social 
organization, even more than the stagnation of technology, created, in an 
endemic fashion, a surplus of men. The armies seemed all the more normal 
in that they mobilized those idle by vocation (the nobles) or by servitude 
(the unemployed or the vagabonds). The death of the former was regarded 
as glorious—a state privilege—of the rest, as indifferent. The democratic age 
and the civilization of labor rejected, in principle, these two categories of the 

Surpluses of men have not disappeared with modem society. Agricultural 
overpopulation, so frequent in the underdeveloped nations, is a phenomenon 
of the same order. Until we succeed in mobilizing for labor the “useless 
hands” (as Communist China claims to have done), the majority of the 
world’s agricultural regions will count a surplus of men, since production 
would not be diminished in the case of the sudden elimination of a part 
of the rural population. Historians noted that even in France, when she was 
in the process of modernizing herself during the last century, great numbers 
of men were idle on account of the slowness of industrialization and the 
rigidity of the social stmcture. To explain by the pressure of the unemployed 
the wars with Spain, Algeria, Italy or Mexico would be absurd. To explain 
by this fact the government’s propensity to wage these wars and the indif¬ 
ference with which public opinion receives them would be impossible. 

Three population phenomena, distinct though related, can be connected 
with the propensity to wage war: surplus of men, overpopulation (global or 
partial), biological vitality. None of these can be called, in a general or 
dogmatic way, the cause of wars or of warlike propensity (moreover a causal 
relation presupposes that all other things are equal; in this case all other things 
cannot be equal). But each of them has certain links with war, though 
these links are difficult to determine. Surplus of men, in the most general 
sense of the term, is an endemic phenomenon in all human societies whose 
technology is virtually stationary and whose organization is crystallized. What 

R l call partial overpopulation the gap between the curve of number and the curve 
of resources for a fraction, and not for the whole, of a population. 



is called the historical phase is characterized by two so-to-speak negative 
features: numerical equilibrium is not maintained by a quasi-natural mecha¬ 
nism, as in the small, closed and archaic collectivities^, the capacity for 
initiative, innovation, technological or social adaptation is still weak (not in 
itself, but in relation to the problems raised). Men of no use to production 
have of necessity almost always existed. Since, at the same time, conquest, 
exploitation of the conquered, and pillage constitute sources of enrichment, 
the transformation of the idle into combatants, who when victorious bring 
back spoils, is strictly rational. Even if these collectivities had thought in 
economic terms, they would not have been wrong to set the combatant above 
the laborer. Not only did the former protect the latter’s life, but quite often 
he produced more. In the last century the hierarchy of values was quite 
different: the economic productivity of wars (particularly the wars waged by 
Napoleon III in Italy or Mexico) could no longer be compared to that of 
labor. Only the officers somewhat retained the ancient prestige of heroes. I 
do not mean that the wars would cease if the surplus of men were eliminated, 
nor that the wars were determined in their frequency and intensity by the 
number of idle men. I simply regard the “surplus of men” as a concomitant 
phenomenon of the phenomenon of war which helps make the latter intelligi¬ 
ble. Most societies possessed economically unemployed men who, under arms, 
■produced glory or rapine. 

Global or partial overpopulation is tantamount to the accentuation of the 
preceding phenomenon. Under certain circumstances the number of unem¬ 
ployed in rural areas exceeds the norm. The poor, the homeless, the non- 
integrated grow more numerous. Competition for jobs causes wages to be 
lowered, even if the worker’s productivity is stationary or increasing. Neither 
experience nor abstract analysis suggests that such a situation necessarily 
provokes wars or that wars are generally the expression of such a circumstance. 
Disease eliminates the non-integrated as well as the machine gun. The abun¬ 
dance of manpower tends rather to weaken the claims of the non-privileged. 
Certain historians, it is true, explain the fluctuation of Chinese history by 
the fluctuations of number. Even in this hypothesis, overpopulation would be 
at the source of internal difficulties, revolts, conspiracies, dynastic changes, 
rather than of wars between sovereign units. 

With regard to European history, demographers note a certain population 
increase from the tenth century to the thirteenth, a falling off in the four¬ 
teenth century after the plague, a stagnation in the fifteenth century, a sub¬ 
stantial increase in Central Europe in the sixteenth century, a stagnation or 
falling off in Central Europe in the seventeenth century, an important and 
general increase in the eighteenth century, a tumultuous increase in the 

iMlHere, too, equilibrium is not maintained constantly in fact. Certain collectivities 
contract, others expand. There are societies without writing, there are none without 
changes. Yet these societies are not historical for themselves. 


2 37 

nineteenth century. Now the period that followed the plague should have 
been less bellicose, and the three periods of wars—the Crusades, the Thirty 
Years’ War, and the wars of the twentieth century—should have been pre¬ 
ceded by phases of demographic growth. It is possible that a massive diminu¬ 
tion of the population attenuates the violence of the conflict, but, of the 
three examples, the first two do not exemplify the thesis. It is difficult to 
measure the intensity of war in the Middle Ages, for it varies with the cen¬ 
turies. The shift from number to the true impulse of the Crusades remains, 
at the least, obscure. As for the third example, that of Europe in the twentieth 
century, it brings us to our third phenomenon, biological vitality. 

In effect, we have said, neither Germany nor Europe suffered in 1913 from 
overpopulation. The ideology of the people without space (Volk ohne Rawin') 
had not yet become common. The Reich’s leaders and its public opinion 
knew that total wealth was increasing faster than the number of men. If 
demographic growth was the cause of German imperialism, a cause of the 
wars in which the European civilization collapsed, we must seek the essential 
facts not in mere numbers or comparisons of graphs, but in the unconscious 
or the obscure life of collectivities. 

Germany and Europe had no need to lose tens of millions of men in 
order to assure their survivors a higher standard of living. No nation had 
exceeded the welfare optimum. None could even suppose it was staggering 
under the burden of quantity. In Germany as in every nadon with a high 
birth rate, young men were proportionally more numerous than in the coun¬ 
tries where the birth rate permits no more than the replacement of one gen¬ 
eration by the next. The potential supply of combatants might have inspired 
the leaders’ ambitions; it could not inspire their anxiety for themselves and 
their regime. If the European wars of the twentieth century have had a func¬ 
tion of “demographic relaxation,” to borrow M. Bouthoul’s formula, it is be¬ 
cause the numerical pressure which creates the fury of combat is not created 
by either population density or collective impoverishment, but by a kind of 
vital exuberance, comparable to that which sweeps into fights or games those 
youths whose blood is too hot for their veins. We do not know enough 
about the laws which control the development of collectivities to exclude 
the hypothesis of a link between fertility and aggressiveness. Still, we can 
assert with certainty that this relation is not always to be found and that, in 
the case where we suppose we perceive it, other explanations come to mind. 

The very author regarded as the theoretician of the explanation of wars 
by number, explicitly states: “Overpopulation does not necessarily lead to 
foreign or civil war. ’fell Overpopulation, he says, calls into being institutions 
which result in the elimination of men, war being only one of these institu¬ 
tions among others. Such a formula is obvious, but not instructive. It is 
equivalent to the proposition that in a given space, with given resources, only 

MiG. Boutfioul, Of. tit., pp. 323-24. 



a certain number of men survives. Since this number constantly tends to be 
exceeded, social mechanisms eliminate the surplus. 

On several occasions in the past the Japanese have taken deliberate and 
systematic measures to prevent the surplus from appearing at all. Aside from 
this rare practice, mortality by epidemics, hunger and labor conditions have 
regularly eliminated the surplus. Are we to regard war as a complement of or 
a substitute for elimination by delayed marriages, infanticide or the deliberate 
and organized special mortality of the young? That wars kill and, especially 
in the modern period, kill the young, I grant. That we can compare and 
contrast the “Asiatic solution” (high mortality as a result of labor conditions) 
and the European solution (relaxation by periodic wars), I do not believe. 
Until the last century the “European solution” did not differ by nature from 
the Asiatic one: diseases and high mortality rate among the young per¬ 
formed, in the main, the function of eliminating idle hands. In the last 
century the function was no longer performed under the same conditions in 
Europe. But demographic growth did not bring with it an absolute surplus 
(in relation to the subsistence volume) nor even a relative surplus (in relation 
to the welfare optimum). If it made Germany imperialist and the Europeans 
bellicose, contrary to economic rationality and without necessity, we should 
have to conclude that fertility, the accumulation of young people, in certain 
unspecified circumstances, impelled peoples, leaders and public opinion to 
wage war. But if the “explosive situation” incites to imperialism, centuries 
of experience remind us that neither Caesars nor peoples have required this 
incitement to feed ambition and to believe in their vocation as rulers. 

5. From Petroleum to the Atom and Electronics 

The historical period that begins in 1945 differs profoundly, with regard 
to the operation of numbers, from both the preceding decades and from the 
centuries of European expansion. 

In modem times, Europeans have benefited from a unique combination 
of circumstances. The empty spaces of North America were open to them. 
Between 1840 and 1940 fifty-six million of them left the Old World, thirty- 
seven million for the United States. At the same time, thanks to the superiority 
of their means of production and combat, they imposed their rule upon Africa 
and Asia; they were both rich and powerful, as though to prove once and for 
all that the so-called alternative of welfare and glory was an anachronism. 

The peopling of empty space, the extension of the zone of sovereignty was 
succeeded, after 1945, by the dissociation from the empires the Europeans had 
built in Asia and Africa. The “European minorities” left the nations that 
had become independent and flowed back to the metropolitan countries. It 
was the non-Europeans’ turn to possess the machines with which the little 
Asian cape has ruled the world. Since the populations of the so-called under¬ 
developed nations have an average birth rate superior to that of the eco¬ 
nomically advanced nations, it is easy to spread through Western Europe, 



through the entire West, the fear of being overwhelmed by numbers which 
have inspired the French, since 1850, to so many gloomy speculations. 

Let us recall, first of all, that in 1700 the Europeans represented about a 
fifth of the human race (118 million out of 560 million). In 1900 they 
represented a fourth (400 million out of 1,608,000,000). On the eve of the 
last world war they still represented approximately a fourth. Were this per¬ 
centage to diminish and fall from a fourth to a fifth, the decline would 
still be no more than a return to a numerical relation which already existed 
scarcely three centuries ago. 

Moreover the European-non-European relation means little enough, since 
the Europeans are divided into two hostile blocs, one of which feels (or acts 
as if it felt) allied with the revolt of the colored peoples against white 
domination, the other linked both militarily and morally with the United 
States. Now the comparison of the rates of demographic increase on either side 
of the Iron Curtain does not justify the defeatism of those who are obsessed 
by numbers. It is probable that the population of the United States is increas¬ 
ing today as fast as that of the Soviet Union (the annual rate of increase in 
the United States has been approximately 1.5 per cent during the last few 
years). The rate of increase in the Western part of the Old World is lower 
than that on the other side of the Iron Curtain. But the new advance in the 
birth rate in France and Great Britain, which were particularly threatened 
by depopulation, as well as the tendency to a decline in the birth rate in the 
industrializing nations of Eastern Europe, make it impossible to find this 
inequality in growth a disturbing characteristic. 

Suppose we consider the comparative rates of increase in the United States 
and in Latin America, taken as characteristic of industrialized nations on one 
hand and of nations in the process of development on the other. There 
is no doubt that the rise is more rapid in the latter countries. Between 1940 
and 1950 Brazil’s population increased at the annual rate of 2.7 per cent, 
Mexico’s at the annual rate of 3.1 per cent. In thirty years the population 
of Latin America, on an average hypothesis with regard to birth rate, will 
double. It will probably exceed, between now T and the end of this century, 
the population of English-speaking America, but such fluctuations of nu¬ 
merical relations are not directly dangerous for the peoples that multiply less 
rapidly and grow rich faster. 

The peoples whose per capita income is relatively low, whose farmers are 
unacquainted with modem methods of agriculture, and whose industry em¬ 
ploys only a relatively low percentage of the manpower have a tendency, in 
our period, to “increase and multiply.” Let us concede the fact, which is 
explained, generally speaking, by the maintenance of a traditional birth rate 
and the diminution of mortality, this diminution being the consequence of 
an improved hygiene (an improvement which no longer implies a substantial 
increase of resources). The rapid numerical increase tends to weaken the new 

24 ° 


states rather than to reinforce them: it weakens them economically as well as 

The abundance of young men, which Bouthoul considers an incitement 
to war, serves the cause of the nationalists who are eager to drive out the 
colonists. Ho Chi Minh, before the Indo-Chinese War began, might have 
said to a French interlocutor: “You will kill ten of our men for every French 
soldier that we will kill. But in the long run, we will be the winners.” In i960 
half the Algerian population was under twenty, and all these Algerian young 
people were nationalists. Once independence is acquired, however, the situa¬ 
tion is reversed and what had been an effective weapon in the struggle against 
the colonizing power becomes a source of weakness in the struggle against 
poverty. As long as the cumulative process of economic expansion has not 
been set moving, the investment indispensable to the education of the young 
has to be subtracted from investment for raising the productivity of adult 
labor. The taxes which the state levies for its diplomatic and military pur¬ 
poses curtail either the share of national revenue reserved for consumption 
or the share set aside for investments. Except for the pitiless regime, military 
expenses compete with these investments. India would have greater diplo¬ 
matic possibilities today if her birth rate were cut by half. 

Such a proposition does not contradict the lessons of French experience. 
Once a nation has created the administrative and intellectual infrastructure 
which modernization of the economy demands, the maintenance of a rela¬ 
tively high birth rate (or, barring this, the immigration of foreign labor) has 
shown itself to be favorable to the increase of productivity or of the per 
capita income. Even in the course of the ten years 1950—60, production per 
active person has increased 5.6 per cent per year in Japan, where, in ten years, 
manpower has increased 37 per cent; 5.8 per cent in Federal Germany, where 
manpower has increased 28 per cent; 4.4 per cent in the Low Countries, 
where manpower has increased 15 per cent; 4.4 per cent in Italy, where 
manpower has increased 14 per cent. The corresponding percentages are 2.6 
and 8 for the United States, 1.9 and 4 for Norway, 2.2 and 4.5 for Great 
Britain. At the level of development which the "Western nations have reached, 
an increase of manpower, which facilitates transfers from job to job and 
maintains the creative impulse and the conviction of a future, seems then, for 
the moment, favorable not only to the increase of the national product (which 
follows as a matter of course), but also of per capita productivity. This is not 
true for the Asian or Latin American countries nor for rates of demographic 
increase exceeding 2 per cent. If overrapid numerical increase constitutes a 
danger to the West, it is because of revolutions and authoritarian regimes 
which could result from the poverty of the too-numerous masses, the 
increase of idle hands. 

Yet we must not underestimate the present relations between population 
volume and military strength, between military strength and diplomatic power. 
The defensive or revolutionary power of high-birth-rate populations has be- 



come irresistible. Partisans are incapable of defeating regular armies, but they 
render maintenance of order costly and pacification impossible. Once the 
prestige of the conquerors has vanished, the number of the colonized in¬ 
evitably overwhelms the superior equipment of the colonists, so that by a 
strange paradox the latter are obliged to mobilize hundreds of thousands of 
soldiers against several thousand guerrillas. Nine million Moslems against 
one million Europeans, twenty thousand regular combatants in the army of 
liberation against four hundred thousand French soldiers, losses in human 
lives ten or twenty times higher among the Algerian nationalists than among 
the French, expenses ten to twenty times higher on the French side. Had 
they reflected on the meaning of these figures, statesmen would have had no 
doubt as to the outcome. 

Prolific and poor populations, impregnable on their own territory, are im¬ 
potent beyond it, for the concentration of economic resources necessary to 
manufacture decisive weapons has advanced along with the destructive power 
of the weapons themselves. It required the administrations of the European 
monarchies to finance the mobilization of the armies of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries. Only the states known as great powers were capable, 
in the First and especially the Second World War, of furnishing millions of 
men with scientific weapons—artillery, tanks, aviation. In the age of the atom 
and of electronics, the club of the great powers is still smaller: only those 
known as super-powers possess, for the moment, the thermonuclear arsenal 
and the latest-model delivery vehicles, ballistic missiles and strategic bombers. 

The influence of number is different, in our times, because the modes of 
combat are many. The law of number functions differently in daily machine- 
gun engagements and in a possible combat with weapons of mass destruction. 
The Arabs are shaking off the yoke of the Western powers, but they are not 
about to extend their cavalcades as far as Poitiers. The Western powers are not 
being impoverished as their space of sovereignty shrinks: on the contrary, 
they wall grow richer faster. The instability in the relations of force derives 
in part from the numerous territories on which the competition between peo¬ 
ples takes place. It derives, too, from the rapidity with which different peoples 
acquire the industrial weapons of power. 

In the Greek world the great powers were based on ten to twenty thousand 
citizens: it is easy to understand why the great powers did not last long and 
why, from one century to the next, the virtu, as Machiavelli called it, shifted 
from Athens to Thebes, or from Macedon to Rome. In the twentieth century 
it takes only a few decades to create a heavy industry. In i960 the Soviet 
Union produced more than twice as much steel as the great German Reich of 
1939. And China will perhaps in one generation increase her steel production 
by some twenty million tons, that is, by an amount exceeding the present 
production of France. The superiority of certain nations in their industrial 
career, which they owed in the first place to a head start, is shrinking and 
tends to disappear as the industrial type of society becomes more widespread. 



Relations of force depend on the relative number of men and the relative 
number of machines: the latter has fluctuated in the last century even more 
rapidly than the former. 

Is it conceivable, beyond the phase of industrialization, and once every 
nation has achieved a comparable productivity', that the relation may depend 
exclusively on the number of men? Or, on the other hand, is it henceforth 
the quality of machines that will be decisive? What can millions of assault 
tanks do against one thermonuclear bomb? What could dozens of thermo¬ 
nuclear bombs do against a state possessing an invulnerable defense against 
bombers and ballistic missiles? We shall not play the prophet, confining our¬ 
selves to observing that between rivals of the same order of greatness (or of 
size), it is quality that is likely to gain the decision. What the tactical 
capacity of the Roman legions did for the ancient world, a defense against 
ballistic missiles could do for the Northern Hemisphere. But the scientists 
have replaced the strategists. 

chapter IX 

On Resources 

Space and number generally escape the awareness of the actors: gold, sil¬ 
ver, slaves, petroleum have been recognized, down through the ages, as the 
stakes of conflicts between states. Historians and philosophers have not had to 
discover that the collectivities in conflict thirsted for precious metals or raw 
materials: they have more often had to correct cynicism than to unmask 
hypocrisy. Men, they said, are also animated by the desire for glory or the 
ambition to conquer. It is in our period that the so-called economic interpreta¬ 
tion pretends to originality. Since our civilization grants primacy to labor, 
scientists and ideologists readily suppose that they are discovering profound 
and mysterious forces when they explain the course of diplomatic history 
by economic causes. 

I have intentionally chosen the vaguest and most general term, resources, 
in preference to the term economics. It is wise, indeed, to leave the latter 
its precise and limited sense. By resources I mean the sum of material means 
collectivities can use to assure their subsistence. Men comprise part of re¬ 
sources when they are slaves, in other words when they are treated as ob¬ 
jects. In all other cases, they are subjects of the activity by which things are 
transformed into goods, that is, serve to satisfy men’s needs or desires. The 
concept of resources covers the widest field, from the soil and what lies un¬ 
derneath it to food and manufactured products. It includes in a certain way 
the realities to which the two notions of space and number refer. The relation 
between space and number depends on resources, that is, on both the natural 
milieu (or on material things) and on the capacity for utilization, a capacity 
itself dependent on the knowledge of men and the efficacy of collective action. 

The economic concept does not apply to an isolable fragment of the sum 
of resources, but to an aspect of the activity by which things are transformed 
into goods. Let us call labor the activity by which men act upon things in 
order to use them. This activity involves a technological aspect and an 
economic aspect. The first is logically reduced to the combination of means 



with a view toward ends. Since the neolithic revolution, societies have been 
able to cultivate the soil, inciting biological phenomena as a result of which 
the fruits of the earth ripen and the human race increases and multiplies. 
But since the dawn of history, the laboring activity has involved another 
aspect, that of the choice of scarce means with alternative uses and, above 
all, of the means that are scarce in essence: the time of each laborer and of 
the laborers taken collectively. It is not impossible to distinguish technology 
and economics at the lowest level, that of the individual worker. But con¬ 
sideration of the collectivity is preferable. The disparity between desires (at 
least in essence) and possibilities of satisfying them is thus explicit, just as 
the necessity of the choice to which any social existence is subject is also 
made clear. A collectivity chooses a certain distribution of available labor 
among various jobs, a certain distribution of goods among classes. We shift 
from the distribution of labor to the distribution of incomes by the in¬ 
termediary of a mode of circidation. Every economic system, that is, the sum 
of institutions by which needs are satisfied, involves three characteristics, de¬ 
pending on the systems of division of labor, of circulation of goods, of 
distribution of incomes. 

Hence, if we consider the relationship between resources and foreign pol¬ 
icy, it seems that we must distinguish three kinds of data likely to be causes: 
raw materials, afforded by the natural milieu; knowledge and ‘‘know-how,’’ 
which permit the exploitation of these materials; and the mode of organiza¬ 
tion applied to the production and the circulation which determine the 
economic system, that is, the manner in which the obligations of labor and 
the incomes from the collective effort are distributed among individuals. It 
appears that an exhaustive study should constitute types for each of these 
aspects of the economic system, and determine the action of each one of 
them upon the behavior and fortune of states. But such a method is likely to 
lead to virtually endless research. Hence it seems preferable to me—and the 
experiment will perhaps justify this simplification—to focus our analyses on 
three problems, analogous to those treated in the preceding chapters: first of 
all, resources as means of force, next resources as objectives of the belligerents, 
stakes of rivalries, or causes of war. In conclusion we shall briefly compare 
the influence of various systems of modem economy on the external behavior 
of states. 

The first theme suggests the classical questions: what is the relation be¬ 
tween prosperity, wealth and welfare on the one hand, and political or 
military force on the other? The second brings us to the eternal question: 
why do men fight? For gold or for glory? When do they fight for wealth and 
when for the intoxication of conquest? Lastly, the third theme is oriented 
toward the future: will labor and war be indefinitely complementary ac¬ 
tivities, or does a certain kind of labor make the elimination of war inevi¬ 
table or probable or desirable? 



1. Four Doctrines 

Economists, historians and philosophers have for centuries discussed the 
problems we have just formulated. But they have not discussed them sepa¬ 
rately. The answer given to one of these problems almost necessarily involves 
the answer given to the other. Depending on the meaning the authors assign 
to labor or trade, they regard wealth as fatal or favorable to the greatness of 
peoples; commerce and war as one and the same, or not one and the same, in 
essence; conflicts as either provoked or pacified by trade. 

I shall therefore try to present four ideal types which I shall call mercantil¬ 
ism, liberalism, national economy and socialism. Historically, each of these 
doctrines has been set forth in various ways. Composite or modified doctrines 
are more frequent, as a matter of fact, than these pure ones. The following 
summaries do not aim at reproducing the exact thought of any of the thinkers 
connected with the four schools I have just listed. I am trying here to set 
forth the logical framework of four intellectual structures. 

The mercantilist doctrine of the relations between economy and inter¬ 
national relations has as its initial principle the celebrated formula "money 
is the sinew of war.” Let us quote, among the many possible sources, the 
following lines from Montchrestien’s Traite de Veconomie politique (1615): 
“He who first said that money is the sinew of war spoke to the point, for 
though money is not the only consideration, good soldiers being absolutely 
necessary along with it, the experience of several centuries teaches us that it is 
always the principal. Gold is many times more powerful than steel.’B The 
inverse relation is asserted by Machiavelli in a celebrated text® 

If precious metals are the sinews of war, they are also the measure of the 
strength of nations, since in the last analysis strength is measurable by what 
we call “trial by force.” The will to power is thus expressed logically by the 
effort to amass the greatest possible amount of gold and silver. Now there 
are two methods to achieve this end; one is war, the other commerce. Each 
state increases its reserve of precious metals by plunder or by exchange. 
But—and this is the second proposition which dominates mercantilist thought 
—there is no difference in nature between these two methods. In depth, they 
are of the same essence. 

As ColbenH] says: “It is only the abundance of money in a state that 
makes the difference as to its greatness and its power.” If this is the case, 
how could commerce, on which depends the reserve of gold and silver, and 
thus the power of states, not be a kind of war? “Commerce causes a perpetual 

0 Paris, 1889, pp. 141-42. This Montcbrestien quotation and the Machiavelli 
one following are from E. Silbemer, La Guerre dans la pensee economic du XVIe au 
XVlIIe siecles, Paris, 1939. Another hook by this same author, La Guerre et la Paix 
dans I’histoire des doctrines economiques, Paris, 1957, discusses the nineteenth century. 
LflMachiavelli, Discourse on the First Decade of Titus Livius, II, 10. 

[HLettres, instructions et memoires, Paris, 1862, t. II, l e partie, p. CCLXIX. Cited by 
Silberner, op. cit., p. 261. 



combat in peace and in war among the nations of Europe as to which will 
gain the upper hand.®And further: “Commerce is a perpetual and peaceful 
war of spirit and industry among all nations.’H] In the next century Dutot 
(1738) develops the idea: "To make peace in order to procure for ourselves 
all the advantages of a great commerce, is to wage war upon our enemies.® 

Certain British authors echo the continental ones. They, too, refuse to 
distinguish between commercial supremacy and political hegemony: “Who¬ 
ever Commands the ocean Commands the Trade of the World, and Who¬ 
ever Commands the Trade of the World Commands the Riches of the World, 
and whoever is master of that, Commands the World itself.S Consequently, 
“in no other way can the balance of power be maintained or continued but 
by the balance of trade.® 

The identification of trade with war derives from the following reason¬ 
ing: since a positive balance of trade is necessary in order to accumulate 
precious metals, and since all the states cannot have a positive balance, trade 
cannot be profitable to all. He who buys more than he sells loses gold and 
silver, and is therefore ruined by the exchange or, we would say, loses in the 
exchange. The race for precious metals creates a difference in nature between 
foreign trade and domestic trade, since the latter does not modify the stock 
of gold and silver and the former, on the contrary, determines its volume. 
Even as late as the middle of the eighteenth century a French author expressly 
formulates the thesis: “The true commerce of a nation consists essentially 
in the course of exchanges which it makes with foreign nations. On the other 
hand, exchanges which are made only between the subjects of one and the 
same state are less a true commerce than a simple displacement of conve¬ 
niences which facilitates consumption but adds nothing to the total wealth 
of a nation and in no way extends its advantages.® 

The search for precious metals attaches an aggressive character to com¬ 
mercial expansion and foreign trade among nations, for the stock of gold 
and silver is limited, as are the amount of possible exchanges. The mer¬ 
cantilists reason within a finite world, in a static universe. Exchange is not 
favorable to the buyer as it is to the seller. But, according to the expression 
of an Italian author, Botero: “The verycommon means of enriching oneself 
at the expense of others is commerce.’® “We lose as much as the foreigner 


To depend as little as possible on foreign purveyors, to produce as much 

Wtbid., t. VI, p. 266. 

CO bid., t. VI, p. 269. 

EjQuoted by Silbemer, p. 53. Dutot, Reflexions sur la commerce et les finances, 
f Quoted by Silbemer, p. 106, note 57. John Evelyn, Navigation and Commerce, 1674. 
aaQuoted by Silbemer, p. 106, note 60. The Golden Fleece, 1737. 

ElQuoted by Silbemer, p. 109. Goyon de la Plombanie, La France agricole et mar- 
chande, 1762. 

IlSIQuoted by Silbemer, p. 108. G. Botero, Raison et gouvernment d’Etat, 1599. 
ElQuoted by Silbemer, p. 108. Montchrestien, op. cit. 



as possible of what the nation needs, to protect the national artisans against 
the dangerous rivalry of foreign artisans, such counsels follow, quite strictly, 
from the effort necessary in order to have a positive balance of trade. “A 
kingdom that can itself satisfy its own needs is always richer, stronger and 
more to be feared.’^ 

Within this doctrine, the question of the responsibility for conflicts does 
not arise. Conflict is natural, inevitable, since the interests of states are funda¬ 
mentally contradictory. “Those who are members of the government of states 
must have the latter’s glory, augmentation, and enrichment for their principal 
goal. ’HD If the French cannot increase their commerce save by crushing the 
Dutch, why should they hesitate to resort to force in order to realize 
a legitimate ambition? The mercantilists are not, as such, warmongers. To 
say that “the advantages of a great commerce” are equivalent to a war 
against our enemy is in a sense to admit that commerce is a substitute for 
war. But, if we posit the essential rivalry of states, war is, so to speak, 
permanent, whether it assumes the open form of combats or the camouflaged 
form of commerce. For princes, the choice of one or the other is a matter 
of opportunity and occasion. 

Bodin is not a firebrand, but he reduces the choice between peace and 
war to a rational calculation. A prince, even a powerful one, even if he is 
wise and magnanimous, “will demand neither war nor peace if necessity, 
which is not subject to laws of honor, does not force him to do so; and will 
never wage battle, provided there is no more apparent profit in victory 
than in loss if the enemies were victorious.’^ Perhaps this formula of Sir 
William Temple’s, in its frankness and its moderation, expresses all the 
pacifism of which mercantilism is capable: “It is a maxim whose truth I 
believe one can never deny, that no wise state will ever undertake war save 
with the intention of making conquests or in the necessity of protecting 

The liberal has not only a different objective from the mercantilist, he 
interprets the facts differently. What I gain, the other loses, affirms the 
mercantilist. In a free exchange he who profits least still profits, answers 
the liberal (or at least the liberal type). The demonstration of this formula 
assumes several more or less refined forms. But the core of the argument is 
as simple in the liberal doctrine as it was in that of the mercantilist. 

According to the latter, commerce is not a means of obtaining the goods 
one desires by giving up others one is not using, but an apparently peaceful 
method of enlarging one’s own share of a given stock of precious metals. 
Once the obsession with precious metals disappears, once the development 
of the means of production dissipates the illusion of a permanently fixed 

ip Quoted by Silbemer, p. no. Montchiestien, op. cit. 

E^Quoted by Silbemer, p. 26. Montchrestien, op. cit. 

EDQuoted by Silbemer, p. 20. J. Bodin, De la Republique, 1576. 

IHOQuoted by Silbemer, p. 65. Sir William Temple, 1693. 



volume of goods to be distributed or of trade to be shared among the nations, 
the belligerent character of the exchange disappears of itself and, hitherto 
unnoticeable, its pacific character appears evident. If each of the parties to 
the exchange decides of his own will, it cannot be that either of them “loses in 
the exchange,” even if, in monetary values, one party or the other does not 
make equal gains. 

When the obsession with precious metals disappears, so does the idea of an 
essential difference between foreign trade and domestic trade. Perfect liber¬ 
alism assumes, by hypothesis, a universal republic of exchanges. Whether or 
not a province is outside the national borders matters little: buyers will obtain 
the goods produced in this province only in return for the goods they possess. 
Ideally, in relation to humanity taken as a whole, there is only a single 
trade, which the military force of states is impotent to modify. According to 
Bentham’s celebrated formula: “Conquer the whole world, it is impossible 
you should increase your trade one half-penny.’® 

From this the liberals conclude just as logically that trade is essentially 
contrary to war. Trade pacifies, whereas political rivalry inflames passions. 
Already in the eighteenth century, formulas opposed to those of mercantilism 
are more frequent. Quesnay no longer assumes that foreign trade accounts 
for the greatness of nations and is, in essence, aggressive. “The reciprocal 
commerce of nations is mutually sustained by the wealth of the sellers and 
the buyers. ’H 3 “Custom duties,” Dupont de Nemours writes, “are a kind 
of reciprocal hostility between nations.® And in a formula which makes an 
admirable pendant to those of Colbert a century earlier, the Abbe Baudeau 
writes in 1771: “The opposition of interests constitutes the essence of the 
policy of usurpation. The unity of interests constitutes the essence of eco¬ 
nomic policy.’^ 

Once it is assumed, as J. F. NelsorHslput it, that “the spirit of conquest and 
the spirit of commerce are mutually exclusive in a nation,” the liberals (dif¬ 
fering from the mercantilists, for whom international conflicts did not raise 
any problem because they belonged to the natural order of things) must 
account for the existence of wars. On the whole, it seems to me, there are 
three possible answers. The first is to establish that commerce and politics 
belong to two fundamentally different orders. States are in permanent rivalry 
not because they have contradictory economic interests but because the 
princes or the peoples are eager for glory or land. A second answer emphasizes 
the gap between the true interests of states or nations and the consciousness 

EIlQuoted by Silberner, p. 260, note 18. Bentham, Principles of International Law, 
rl 43 ' 

^Quoted by Silberner, p. 196. Quesnay, article “Grains” in the Encyclopedic. 
[i®lQuoted by Silberner, p. 204. Declaration by Dupont to the Council of Elders (Ses¬ 
sion of the Fourth Floreal, Year IV). Moniteur universel of April 28, 1796. 

LLiilQuoted by Silberner, p. 207. Abbe Baudeau, Premiere introduction a la philosophie 
ecq nomique. 

LSHjQuoted by Silberner, p. 172. E ssai politique sur le commerce. 



governments have of them. Or again, the liberals distinguish between the 
economy as it might he in a republic of exchanges and the economy as it is, 
distorted by private monopolies. Lastly, a final answer is to invoke the factor 
of overpopulation. Malthus’s precursors are numerous. The same author who 
maintains that the spirit of commerce and the spirit of conquest are mutually 
exclusive admits that overpopulation is a legitimate motive for conquest. 

The first answer is approximately limiting the scope of the economic inter¬ 
pretation of politics. It is unwarranted to conceive of the world as if it 
resembled a universal republic of exchanges. The political rivalry of states is 
the first datum, advantages and disadvantages of such an economic method 
must not be judged in relation to the whole of humanity, imagined as one, 
but in reference to the consequences which this method entails for states 
which are in fact rivals. (We need merely return to this proposition and to 
combine it with the relatively new fact of industrialization in order to have 
the principle of the national-economy school.) 

The second interpretation, the more usual one, explains the conflict in 
terms of the gap between the economy as it should be and the economy as 
it is. The essential notion, which runs through the entire literature of the 
last century and which results in books like those of Hobson and Norman 
Angell, is already to be found under Quesnay’s pen: the distinction between 
merchants and commerce, between the private interests of some and the 
well-understood interest of the collectivity. “The merchants participate in the 
wealth of nations but the nations do not participate in the wealth of the 
merchants . . . all wars and all reservations relating to commerce can only 
have monopoly as an object, perhaps involuntary on the part of the kingdom’s 
traders, but always fatal to the nations that do not distinguish their interests 
from those of their merchants and that ruin themselves by undertaking wars 
in order to assure the national agents of their commerce an exclusive privilege 
which is prejudicial to themselves. "El 

At the limit, the liberal a la Bentham declares that wars always cost more 
than they achieve, even for the conqueror, that conquests are in essence bad 
business. What is the use of assuming the expenses of administrating a foreign 
territory? If the latter were both sovereign and open to commerce, the metro¬ 
politan nation would enjoy the benefits which it might derive from its colonies 
without the expenses which the latter impose upon it. 

The events of the twentieth century have not so much refuted this doc¬ 
trinal optimism as incited the economists of liberal inspiration to become more 
aware of the gap between nations of a capitalist regime as they are and an 
ideal type of liberal economy. L. Robbins’s book on the economic causes of 
conflictJsHor J. Schumpeter’s on imperialism^ take their place in the lineage 

H 3 Quoted by Silberner, p. 197. Quesnay, of. cit. 

UjjJTka Economic Causes of War, London, 1939. 

HH Imperialism and Social Classes, Oxford, 1951. 



of Quesnay and Adam Smith, that is, of the economists who impute re¬ 
sponsibility for war to the spirit of monopoly and to the residues of mer¬ 
cantilism. Only Thorstein Veblen opens a new chapter by reviving the idea 
of the similarity between the spirit of commerce and the spirit of war and 
by locating the seat of the spirit of peace in industry. 

The economists of the historical and national school would not subscribe 
to either of these two themes. They would reject the mercantilist formula 
that commerce is the continuation of war by other means, but they would 
also reject the Bentham liberalist formula that “all trade is in its essence 
advantageous, even to that party to whom it is least so. All wars in essence 
ruin us.” Or again: “Between the interest of nations, there is nowhere any 
real conflict; if they appear repugnant anywhere, it is only in proportion to 
their being misunderstood.’® 

The historical school, by definition so to speak, takes historical reality for 
its point of departure. Now this reality involves the compartmentalization 
of space, the fractionalization of humanity. The rivalry o£ states is not re¬ 
duced to economic competition. The nations do not fight each other merely 
to gain wealth or to favor trade. The balance-sheet of wars is not to he 
established in relation to the total number of men and in terms of goods 
or merchandise. In preserving a nation from invasion, armies are productive 
to the same degree as the wealth which they save. Victorious, they may afford 
the state and the people not only spoils but occasions and means for pros¬ 

This temperate and reasonable interpretation of the relations between 
economy (or commerce) and wars (or conquests) would probably have been 
admitted by most liberals in the last century as corresponding to experience. 
If we concede the primacy and the fatality of humanity’s splitting up into 
rival states, armies are indispensable to nations, even if they are costly. We 
may say, with Quesnay, “the statesman regrets the men destined for war as 
the landowner regrets the land used for the ditch necessary to irrigate the 
field.® If the field is lost when the ditch is filled in, the latter, though 
representing a loss in relation to the optimum, remains profitable in the real 
world, if space is no longer compartmentalized. Similarly, the liberal may with 
some difficulty plead that all war is costly, even for the victor, if he refers 
to the model of a universal and pacific republic which ignores frontiers and 
soldiers. But history being what it is, it is difficult to deny that victorious 
wars have sometimes gained advantages for peoples and increased the pos¬ 
sibilities of welfare. 

Therefore the new, important idea which dominates the thought of the 
school I shall call national rather than historical concerns neither the 
balance-sheet of armed conflicts nor the judgment passed on soldiers. The 

E 3 Quoted by Silbemer, p. 261. Bentham, op. cit. 

DUlQuoted by Silbemer, p. 193. Quesnay, op. cit. 



originality of the national school lies in its rediscovery of certain arguments of 
the mercantilists, renewed by the consideration of industrial economy. F. List 
denies neither that the welfare of individuals is the goal nor that wars in 
themselves destroy wealth. But the existence of separate political units is a 
fact. The economist has no right to ignore the fate of the collectivity to 
which he belongs and to reason in relation to a humanity without frontiers, 
ideal perhaps but temporarily inaccessible. Now, at the present moment, free 
exchange does not contribute equally to the prosperity of all nations. It tends, 
on the contrary, to consecrate, even to reinforce the supremacy of the most 
advanced nations, that is, those which already possess an industry. How will 
the less advanced nations manage to progress in their turn in the industrial 
world if they open their borders to manufactured products? Free trade would 
condemn them to remaining indefinitely providers of raw materials and pri¬ 
mary products. In the century when industry is a condition of power, the 
suppression of tariff barriers would tend to eternalize the present disparity 
between agricultural and industrialized nations, and hence the inequalities 
of power and standard of living, contrary to justice and even perhaps to peace. 

List clearly conceived the theory, which we have indicated abovep! of 
harmonious development. Since the latter is possible only within a sufficiently 
extensive framework, it is easy to shift to the notion of great space. The 
creation of vast economic-political units is the first stage of the republic of 
exchanges. The partisan of national economy does not deny that this first 
stage may require the use of violence. For a nation to be able, in essentials, 
to be self-sufficient, it must first protect its new industries, and always protect 
its vital ones. It must also on occasion round out the territory of its sov¬ 

Ultimately, F. List does not exclude a peace based on the equilibrium of 
nations and national economies. Beyond the formation of great wholes, free 
exchange would reveal itself to be fruitful because it would bring into rela¬ 
tion equal partners. Universal peace will not emerge from free exchange, but 
free exchange will perhaps be the ultimate result of a pacified humanity, as a 
result of temporary protectionism, as a result of the reinforcement of the 
political-economic units into which humanity is naturally divided. 

Probably the socialist school is the one whose doctrine it is most difficult 
to summarize in a few propositions relating to conflicts and wars. The Utopian 
socialist is inclined to believe that peace among states will of itself follow 
peace within nations. As long as poverty is rampant, as long as injustices are 
not eliminated, the struggle between individuals and classes will continue. 
The Utopian socialists have not had, it seems to me, a single and coherent 
theory of the relations between the class struggle and rivalries among states. 
But they have postulated, more or less clearly, that the reconciliation of men 

113 Cf. Chap. VII, Sec. 3. 



and of groups within an equitable order would lead of itself to the reconcilia¬ 
tion of states. 

The socialism of Marxist inspiration, on the other hand, professes a few 
simple and categorical ideas. It regards wars as inevitable in the capitalist 
system. It borrows from one of the sections of the liberal school the explana¬ 
tion of wars by the rivalry of economic interests. It adds the assertion that 
with the advent of socialism, the occasions or the causes of armed conflicts 
would disappear. Simplifying, one is tempted to say that according to the 
Marxists, the mercantilists faithfully describe the belligerent character of com¬ 
merce in the capitalist regime, the liberals the pacific character of commerce 
after the capitalist regime. 

The economy is bellicose in a capitalist system; it will be pacific in a 
socialist one. The question is: why should this be so? The liberal econ¬ 
omists have incriminated the spirit of protection and monopoly, the action of 
the great corporations or trusts which seek to reserve the domestic markets for 
themselves and to conquer foreign markets. Lenin summarizes all the accusa¬ 
tions formulated by the economists of liberal inspiration against the leaders 
(private interests, privileged groups) of imperialism. But he transfigures this 
interpretation by decreeing that imperialism, far from being imputable to 
minorities, is the necessary expression of capitalism that has reached a certain 
phase of its evolution (the so-called monopolistic phase). Under the influence 
of J. A. Hobson and of Rudolf Hilferdingjsil Lenin insists that capitalism 
is condemned to imperialism and that the peaceful division of the planet 
among private monopolies or states is impossible. Thus, Leninism reverts to 
the essential relationship of commerce and war. But the mercantilist dialectic 
was clearer than that of Leninism: the search for precious metals, whose 
quantity was not expanding, naturally created rivalries and conflicts. Is the 
same true of the search for markets, for raw materials, or for opportunities for 
surplus profit? 

Why will the economy be peaceful in a socialist regime? The Marxists 
have asserted more than demonstrated this proposition, which seemed to them 
self-evident, because they accepted as obvious the theory according to which 
conflicts among states have economic causes; but Jaur&s’ indefinitely repeated 
phrase, “capitalism bears war within itself as the cloud bears the storm,” does 
not constitute a proof. The question remains: what are the aspects of capital¬ 
ism-private ownership of the instruments of production, mechanism of the 
market, concentration of property or power in national or international cor¬ 
porations—which accidentally or inevitably provoke wars among states? 

These four schools do not oppose each other on all points. On the question 
of political conflicts, certain liberal!^ are in agreement with most of the 

Ell n Das Finanzkapital, eine Studie iiher die jiingste Entwicklung des Ka-pitalismus 
^published in 1909), Vienna, 1920. 

Isslcf. for instance Lionel Robbins, op. cit. 



mercantilists and the economists of the national school in proclaiming that 
the rivalry of states is primary and that wars are not always caused by op¬ 
posed commercial interests. The socialists, like the liberals, have as their final 
objective, in doctrine, the welfare of individuals. The national school, like the 
mercantilists, claims to be in the service of the greatness of nations. These 
schools define themselves and oppose each other by their interpretation of 
commerce (or of exchange) considered as the essence of economic life. 
According to the mercantilists, commerce is war, according to the liberals 
commerce is peace, on the sole condition that it be free. According to the 
national economists, commerce will be peace when all nations are developed; 
according to the Marxists commerce is war under capitalism, commerce will 
be peace with socialists. 

2. Historical Interpretation of the Doctrines 

Theories are always partially explained by historical circumstances. 
Whether the supreme goal is the power of the state or the welfare of the 
citizens, it suffices that the conditions of power be different for the econo¬ 
mists' judgments of men’s activities to vary legitimately. 

In the age of courage, in antiquity, military force was essentially dependent 
on number, on the physical vigor of the soldiers, on the organization of the 
army. Hence the mode of life favorable to the quantity and quality of com¬ 
batants, that is, the peasant mode of life, was adorned for centuries with all 
the virtues, both pacific and martial. In 1940 Marshal Petain still praised 
the earth “which never lies”; he was ready, under the inspiration of reac¬ 
tionary advisers and age-old beliefs, to prepare France’s revenge by a return 
to the fields. Sully had more justification in assuming, at the end of the 
sixteenth century, that “strong peoples are peasant peoples because industry 
causes the citizens to lose the habit of painful and laborious operation in 
which they need to be trained in order to become good soldiers.” Arts and 
cities seem to be causes of corruption. The industries debilitate the people, 
luxury softens men. States prosper by simplicity and frugality. 

Although these theses, up until the middle of the eighteenth century, were 
constantly explored by the philosophers, they have been since the dawn of 
modem times no more than a partial truth. Soldiers using powder and cannon 
need some instruction. "In the days of courage,” as Fuller calls them, the 
citizens of Rome acquired their tactical mastery only as a result of the Punic 
Wars: the very length of their service had made professionals out of them. 
The elite soldiers who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries dominated 
the battlefields on land and even more on sea were no longer amateurs, 
whether noble or bourgeois. In matters of armament or training, they de¬ 
pended on the political authority—city, principality, state—which possessed 
enough financial resources to mobilize and equip the troops or crews, to buy 
or manufacture vessels and cannon. 

Machiavelli, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, is reactionary as a 



military theoretician: he does not believe in the effectiveness of artillery; he 
is mistaken as to the necessity of the “sinew of war.” Out of love for antiquity, 
by political doctrine, he longs for an army of citizens, and continues to regard 
the infantry as the queen of battles. In an age when wars of privateering 
and piracy afforded considerable spoils, when foreign trade required warships 
as well as cargo vessels, the mercantilists were closer to historical truth, less 
perverse in their counsel to princes than they seem to us today. Political 
units did not differ so much from each other by the number of men or the 
potential of manufactures as by the unequal capacity to mobilize resources. 
Military force was the primary consequence of this capacity for mobilization. 
A city enriched by commerce, such as Venice, could become a great military 
power by buying mercenaries, both soldiers and sailors. A vast kingdom lost 
its possibilities for action if an empty treasury kept it from mobilizing national 
troops or recruiting volunteers. Machiavelli’s formula: “he who has soldiers 
finds money,” became true, but in a sense which the Florentine had probably 
not envisaged: the state, which had monopolized police powers, acquired 
thereby the capacity to draw on an important share of the nation’s resources 
for its own needs. Military force continued to be a function both of the 
potential and of the capacity for mobilization. But since the latter seemed 
henceforth to belong to all states, it was the potential which occupied the 
foreground and represented the differential factor. 

At the end of the eighteenth century, the arguments about the respective 
effectiveness of steel and gold, of infantry and artillery, were exhausted. 
Whatever the price still attached to precious metals, the wealth of nations 
(what we now call economic growth or expansion) no longer appeared to be 
a consequence of the stock of gold and silver possessed and held by each of 
them. Peace, public order, the activity of merchants and manufacturers, the 
spirit of initiative—these were the profound causes of the swifter enrichment 
of some rather than of others. The age of pirates was over. When peace 
rules, commerce becomes authentically pacific and no one henceforth calls it 
“camouflaged war.” The British authors were all the more inclined to ac¬ 
centuate the peaceful essence of exchange, since their nation bad the better 
share of it. 

At the same time, it is enough to open one’s eyes to observe that “virtue 
is always rewarded”: by devoting themselves to works of peace, nations guar¬ 
antee their security, enlarge their power. Adam Smith notes that the condi¬ 
tions of military force are no longer what they were in the past. In the past, 
the poor peoples were also the strong ones. Arms and weapons were simple, 
differing little from each other: the differential factor was physical vigor, mar¬ 
tial ardor. Arts and luxury were more likely to enervate the combatants than 
to perfect the instruments of combat. The stereotypes were those of the 
Roman Republic, which had reached supremacy by frugality and the virtue 
of its peasant citizens, and which had been precipitated into the abyss by 
wealth the corruption of the imperial city. It was at Capua that Han- 



rubai's soldiers had discovered their pleasures and prepared their defeat. 
Henceforth, another image replaces the one which modem authors had bor¬ 
rowed from ancient literature. Civilization, thanks to the arts, henceforth 
triumphs over barbarism. Wealth and power go hand in hand, since each has 
industry as its basis. 

It is at this point that the “national economists” raise their objection. If 
industrial development governs both wealth and power, it constitutes the 
crucial objective. Trade, free trade, is at best only a means. Yet, these 
economists declare, free trade between political-economic units which have 
not reached the same phase of development paralyzes or retards those which 
are behind. The industrialist thesis is maintained, but on the behalf of tariff 
protection and harmonious growth. 

These schools exist in the middle of the twentieth century, as they did in 
the middle of the nineteenth, although the doctrines have meanwhile as¬ 
sumed subtler forms: one favoring, in principle, freedom of trade, the other 
emphasizing the necessity of harmonious growth and of industrialization. To 
a degree, the divergence concerns questions of fact: what is the influence of a 
liberal policy of foreign trade on industrialization in the case of an under¬ 
developed nation? No economist would answer such a question by a simple 
and categorical proposition. The economist of liberal tendency would recog¬ 
nize the necessity for protective measures, at least partial and temporary ones. 
The economist of protectionist tendency would recognize the utility of cer¬ 
tain kinds of trade. But the two orientations exist, either toward the largest 
possible self-sufficient space, or toward a worldwide solidarity created by the 
most active commerce possible. 

The preference for the formula of great space is generally dictated by 
political-military considerations as much as by economic ones. The state’s 
power is a function of its dependence on the outside world, at the same 
time as of its resources and degree of mobilization. An industry, an army 
can be paralyzed by the lack of a raw material or of a particular product. The 
problem of productivity leads to an international division of labor that is as 
extensive as possible. The problem of power forbids the sacrifice of any vital 
piece of the machinery of production. The reasoning of the “national econ¬ 
omists” is convincing in a universe fragmented into rival sovereignties; that 
of the liberal economists supposes a universal republic or aims at creating its 

Thus, the theories concerned with the relation of resources to military 
force or to the power of states are readily explained. All contain, for the 
period in question, a share of truth. None is entirely true because none 
systematically considers the multiple determinants. If we assume the weapons 
to be analogous, then number, vigor and organization of the combatants de¬ 
termine the relation of forces. If we except number, there subsists the duality 
of primitive ardor and organization. If is the differential factor, characteristic 
of a period, which the theoretician retains and transforms into a unique cause. 



Yet let us not forget to note that in each period there are marginal, ex¬ 
ceptional or aberrant causes. The military power of Athens was based on its 
mines, commerce, fleet, and its empire. This power was, therefore, precarious 
and of short duration. It nonetheless dominated the system of the city-states 
for a time. Similarly Carthage would have subscribed to the mercantilist 
formula: money is the sinew of war. The citizens of Carthage had fought 
the Roman soldiers for years before succumbing at the end of the Third Punic 
War. Yet Hannibal, who made Rome tremble, led an army of mercenaries 
and foreign units furnished by his allies. 

In our own age no one would go so far as to proclaim that the quality of 
the combatants is the result of the frugality of their mode of life. In piloting 
planes or driving assault tanks, the level of instruction is much more impor¬ 
tant than the simplicity of manners. But in the djebels of Algeria, the for¬ 
mula of the ancient authors recovers a degree of truth. The Kabyl peasant 
is much more adept at night fighting, at hand-to-hand combat and ambushes 
than the young Frenchman of a unit accustomed to cities and electric lights. 
The French unit remained the master of the terrain thanlcs to number, or¬ 
ganization and certain technical weapons. Yet qualitative superiority, in a 
particular kind of combat, is not on the side of civilization, even in the age 
of industry. 

There subsists a more general share of truth in the proposition attributing 
martial superiority to a poor people over a rich one. We agree that the strength 
of regular armies is a function of their equipment and the latter, in its turn, 
of industry. Military force would thus be proportional to the human and in¬ 
dustrial potential, if the capacity for mobilization were taken to be equal in 
the various states. But this capacity, as a matter of fact, is never equal. It is 
controlled by two variables: administrative effectiveness and the people’s con¬ 
sent to privation. The volume of resources available for the war effort is 
measured by the gap between total production and the minimum necessary 
for subsistence. Habits of frugality reduce the supplies necessary for the army 
in the field. They permit a lower standard of living for the civilian popula¬ 
tion and thereby enlarge the gap between total production and the irreducible 
minimum of civilian consumption. 

Lastly the regime, in its turn, is more or less capable of convincing, per¬ 
suading or obliging the people to accept a lower standard of living. To a 
degree, the distribution of collective resources, in peacetime and in wartime, 
is controlled by the mode of government. In the industrial age, the modem 
alternative of welfare or power reproduces, in a renewed form, the ancient 
alternative of frugality, the mother of virtue, and luxury, the principle of 
corruption. It remains to be discovered whether frugality by constraint, which 
the modem despotisms impose, is morally and politically similar to the virtue 
praised by the Greek or Roman authors. 

If it is relatively easy to explain, by referring to historical data, the theories 
concerned with the relation between resources and force; the same is not true 



of the theories concerned with the economic causes of conflicts. The theories 
of the first type are not a faithful expression of reality, they distort it, simplify 
it, transform it, but they regularly retain one truly essential aspect of it. On 
the other hand, the economic interpretations of conflict seem to be fashionable 
to the very degree that they are contestable. 

During the ages of stationary or slowly advancing techniques, force was a 
much more effective method of acquiring goods than trade. The quantity of 
wealth which the conquerors could seize by arms was enormous compared 
to the quantity which they created by their labor. Slaves, precious metals, 
tributes or taxes levied on the foreign populations, the profits of victory, 
were obvious and rewarding. Yet the classical authors, without ever admitting 
or denying the economic productivity of empire, almost all asserted that the 
latter was desired for itself. 

On the other hand, in the modem age, the economic profits of victory, 
however substantial they may be on occasion, have become insignificant or 
absurd compared to the additional wealth which the>yearly progress of tech¬ 
nology or organization furnishes the industrialized peoples. Yet it is in our 
period that the influential authors believe that imperialism remains mysterious 
as long as the pressure of “trusts” and the appetite for money have not been 
exposed behind the activity of diplomats and soldiers. 

This apparent paradox is, in fact, the best introduction to the problem of 
economic interpretation of inter-state conflicts. During the millenniums of 
the historical period, inequality has been extreme between the privileged and 
the masses within the complex societies, between the various collectivities. 
The low labor yield did not permit giving the benefits of luxury or leisure to 
all. Whether he owned land, precious metals, slaves or castles, the property of 
one man signified the privation of another. Property was, in essence, monopo¬ 
listic. Abstract economic theory demonstrates that, given a certain distribution 
of goods, the mechanism of free exchange is the most advantageous for all. 
It does not demonstrate that the disfavored must passively accept the distri¬ 
bution made at a given moment in history. The use of force by the have-nots 
in order to take from the haves was readily intelligible. 

The poverty of all known societies from the dawn of civilization, the un¬ 
equal distribution of wealth within and among collectivities, the extent of 
the wealth to be seized by violence in comparison with the wealth produced 
by labor, all these facts have constituted the structural condition of conflict 
between classes or states, and account in retrospect for the wars of conquest. 

Must we conclude that this has always been the motive of the conquerors, 
down through the centuries? No historian would be so insane or rather so 
stupid as to say so. The nomads of the deserts or the steppes, the Arabs or 
the Mongols, lived the kind of life of which combat was the spontaneous 
expression, the principal activity. They waged war for its own sake, they at¬ 
tacked sedentary populations because battle was their pleasure and empire 
their vocation. Bonaparte’s orders of the day to the Italian army, contrasting 



the soldiers’ poverty with the w r ealth before their eyes, was not necessary to 
hurl the Asian horsemen to the assault. 

The imperialism of Athens or of Rome would be more consonant with an 
economic interpretation. Greatness, as we have said, was inseparably political 
and economic, naval and commercial. Athens could not subsist as a city-state 
of more than forty thousand citizens, reveling in the splendor of her festivals, 
without a commercial network and the tribute of her allies. In defeat she 
saved neither her fortune nor her glory. Yet Thucydides does not consider— 
and we are tempted to agree with him—that the Athenians were especially 
greedy for wealth. What animated them was the pride of dominion, which 
knew no bounds and which swept them into catastrophe. 

Roman imperialism, especially starting from the end of the Republic and 
under the Empire, had many causes of an economic order. The city, having 
grown huge, needed the African wheat. Without tribute paid by the con¬ 
quered, handouts to the crowd and public games would have been impos¬ 
sible. Romans of the privileged classes, partisans or knights, went to the 
provinces to make their money as proconsuls or tax collectors. None would 
have thought, and none would think today, of applying Bentham’s calculus 
to the Roman Empire: the cost of the colonies to the metropolitan nation. 
Nor would any have regarded Virgil’s advice to the Roman people as merely 
the camouflage of avarice: tu regere -populos memento. The Empire had no 
need for a justification when it w y as economically profitable. 

Why has empire, in the course of modem times, been increasingly in¬ 
terpreted in economic or in philosophical terms, and less and less in frankly 
political terms, following the example of the Greeks? During a first phase, say 
from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth, imperial conquests were obvi¬ 
ously profitable. It would be absurd to claim that explorers or even merchants 
were animated by the mere desire for profits, by the mere thirst for gold and 
silver. The psychology of the Spanish conquistadors in America does not 
lend itself to crude simplification. Perhaps the religious mission was invoked 
in order to calm consciences which were troubled by the enormity of the 
profits and the cruel fate inflicted upon the natives. The advent of precious 
metals, the possession of distant lands covered Spain with power and wealth. 
Why question the respective share of the various motives in the behavior of 
the conquerors? 

The French and English empires in India or America, different as they 
were from each other and from the Spanish Empire, were scarcely more prob¬ 
lematical. The motives for which Englishmen, Frenchmen, Spaniards or 
Dutchmen went to settle in America, on the territory of what is today the 
United States or Canada, were many. Some set out by order of the authori¬ 
ties, others to protect their right to worship according to the imperatives of 
their conscience, others to find opportunities for a broader, freer life, still 
others to reap the profits of a distant and speculative commerce. The creation 
of a new France or a new England in an almost empty territory was self- 



explanatory, like the attraction of the Indies trade or the creation of military 
bases by chartered companies whose explicit goal was money. 

The errors of judgment committed by contemporaries at the period of the 
Treaty of Paris and so often repeated by French authors were due to the 
disparity between the actual importance and the virtual importance of this or 
that territory. In 1763 Santo Domingo represented for France a more precious 
possession than Canada, whose icy wastes offered the metropolitan nation 
little more than furs or a few rare metals. Space for population growth was 
not yet recognized as the supreme wealth. The link between the spirit of 
commerce and the spirit of adventure, between curiosity and greed, between 
the advantages of commerce and the rapine of conquests, between the monop¬ 
oly of the flag and political sovereignty were sufficiently apparent for a strictly 
economic theory of European expansion to have had, before the nineteenth 
century, neither the merit of originality nor that of cynicism. It would have 
seemed an arbitrary and futile design for explanation. 

The intellectual climate changed slowly in the nineteenth century. Philos¬ 
ophers and moralists questioned the legitimacy of wars and conquests just 
when the liberal economists began to doubt the advantage of empires or 
colonies for the metropolitan nations. The imperialists found themselves 
doubly on the defensive. Henceforth they were obliged to justify what had 
hitherto seemed to correspond to the accepted order of things, to account for 
empire both on the level of ideas and on that of advantage, against those who 
denounced it as unjust and against those who denounced it as costly. Which 
explains the conjunction, in the speeches of Jules Ferry 7 , of phrases about the 
civilizing mission of France (or of the white man) and of others about the 
necessity, for the sake of commerce and prestige, of hoisting the tricolor over 
the four comers of the globe. The interpreters of British imperialism also 
resorted to two kinds of arguments: Joseph Chamberlain’s prosperity by em¬ 
pire and Rudyard Kipling’s white man’s burden. 

Simultaneously the theoreticians of socialism: humanitarians, interpreters 
of the idealistic hope of the West attack class struggles, inequalities, wars. 
They attribute armed conflicts to capitalism. And the imperialists as well as 
the liberals furnish them proofs of capitalism’s responsibility. The imperialists 
pride themselves on the wealth which the colonies afford the metropolitan 
nation. The liberals, at least those hostile to the colonies and convinced of 
the pacific character of modem economics, indict the damaging action of the 
privileged groups. The Marxists use the arguments of both groups in order 
to demonstrate that “imperialism is the final stage of capitalism.” 

3. Imperialism and Colonization 

Imperialism, according to the simplest and most general definition, is the 
diplomatic-strategic behavior of a political unit which constmcts an empire, 
that is, subjects foreign populations to its rule. The Romans, the Mongols, 
the Arabs have been empire-builders whom we properly call imperialists. 



Many dubious cases occur in the margins of this phenomenon, which is 
never absent from the chronicle of the ages. Should we call it imperialism 
when the populations of the conquering unit and of the subject units share 
the same culture and, so to speak, the same nationality? CWas Bismarck, as 
the creator of the German empire, an imperialist?-) Should we call it im¬ 
perialism when the rules of Tsarist Russia or of the Soviet Union seek to 
maintain a state unity embracing heterogeneous populations? Can we say 
that the German unification was not imperialistic insofar as it corresponded 
to the aspirations of the Germans, that the maintenance of the Soviet 
Empire is not imperialistic insofar as the non-Russian peoples consent to it? It 
is not easy, even for the unbiased observer, to measure the respective force 
of popular sentiments favorable or hostile to the construction or conserva¬ 
tion of an empire. To trace the limits of imperialism clearly, the frontiers of 
nations would have to be visible on the map of cultures, of languages or of 
popular aspirations. 

Imperialism is also equivocal in another sense. Does it disappear by the 
mere fact that state sovereignties are officially respected? Would the peoples 
of Eastern Europe, liberated by the Soviet army and governed today by Com¬ 
munist parties, be wrong to denounce the imperialism of Moscow? The 
frontier is vague between the so-called legitimate influence of great powers 
and the so-called culpable imperialism. Within a heterogeneous system, every 
ruling power is obliged to exercise an influence on the internal affairs of 
secondary states, at least to the degree necessary to prevent the victory of the 
party linked to the rival campUnI 

Colonization, as practiced by the Greek city-states in the eighth and 
seventh centuries b.c., by the Europeans in America since the sixteenth cen¬ 
tury, represents a different phenomenon. The Corinthian colonists who 
founded Corcyra occupied an available space; the British Puritans from En¬ 
gland were less concerned to conquer the Indians than nature. In the long 
run colonization has more influence on peoples’ respective place in the sun 
than imperialism (unless the latter proceeds to the extermination of the con¬ 
quered) : India could not remain long under the sovereignty of Her Britannic 
Majesty, but the United States will continue to speak English. 

The European empires have been partly the result of imperialism, partly 
the result of colonization. In North America colonization prevailed over im¬ 
perialism, in Asia and in Africa imperialism over colonization. The case of 
the Spanish Empire in South America was intermediary. In both cases men 
from the metropolitan nation came and settled in the conquered territory. In 
an extreme case, this minority is reduced to soldiers and administrators who 

HHThese questions are not rhetorical, nor do they seek an answer. I am simply con¬ 
cerned to clarify the concepts involved and to reveal the various aspects of the phe¬ 

Hohrhe dialectic of imperialism, in a heterogeneous diplomatic system, does not ex¬ 
clude discrimination between degrees of interference, influence or domination. 



wield the imperial authority. Generally, though, it includes civilians as well, 
landowners or businessmen who enjoy the privilege of belonging to the ruling 
power and who derive profit from it. When the imperial minority is defini¬ 
tively established and when it is numerous enough, it takes the initiative in 
breaking with the metropolitan nation and constituting an independent state. 
But it does not thereby lose its power and wealth. Imperial domination ex¬ 
tends within the new state: in extreme circumstances, there exists one state 
and two peoples. When the minority from the metropolitan nation is not 
numerous enough, or when it does not mingle with the native populations, 
it is at the mercy of a turn of fortune. The “French colonies” of Tunisia or 
Morocco are in the process of liquidation. They were able to imitate neither 
the ruling classes of Spanish origin who "liberated” the republics of South 
America from the metropolitan nation, nor the European immigrants in 
North America. 

Imperialism and colonization involve too many varieties for one and the 
same interpretation to be applied to all centuries and all nations. It is tbe 
Marxist theory of imperialism and the liquidation, by the European states, 
of their empires in Asia and Africa which have made fashionable the con¬ 
troversies on the nature of the imperial phenomenon. Leaving aside the Greek 
colonization in the eighth century b.c. and the European colonization in 
America since the sixteenth century, we should like to raise a single question: 
is nineteenth-century imperialism attributable to the capitalist regime? 

It seems to me preferable to begin with historical considerations, which do 
not avoid the theoretical question but which afford arguments in favor of 
this or that interpretation. The three facts which the authors discuss at great 
length are: the massive exports of European capital during the last decades of 
the nineteenth and the first decade of the twentieth century, the race for 
Africa during the same periodpH and the First World War. The Leninist 
theory of imperialism demands a relation among these three events. The 
theory is at least shaken if it does not link them together of necessity. 

Historical studies of the export of capital and the colonial conquest have 
been undertaken many timesPiLlNone confirms a simple and dogmatic in¬ 

The two nations which during the half century before the First World 
War conquered the largest territories, France and Great Britain, were also 
the nations which, economically, least needed to acquire new possessions. 
France had a stationary population, a slow industrial growth, and therefore 
suffered neither population surplus, lack of raw materials nor dearth of outlets 

GEDThis period of diplomatic history has been studied by William L. Langer in a work 
entitled Diplomacy of Imperialism, New York, 1935, and also by Parker T. Moon, 
Imperialism and World Politics, New York, 1927. 

HHThe classical works are E. Staley, War and the Private Investor, New York, 1935; 
Herbert Feis, Europe as World Banker, New Haven, 1930; and A. K. Caimcross, 
Home and Foreign Investments, Cambridge, 1953. 



for manufactured products. Population and production increased more rap¬ 
idly in Great Britain, but tbe emigration valve remained open and, with the 
dominions and its sovereignty over India, the United Kingdom was not 
starved for space. It is true that both France and Great Britain had a surplus 
of capital, since they had become bankers for the world, hut they invested 
only a slight fraction of this surplus in their colonies. 

Out of 40 to 45 billion gold franc^] invested abroad just before 1914, only 
4 billion were invested in the Empire. The majority was invested in Europe 
(27.5 billion, of which 11.3 was invested in Russia), 6 billion in Latin 
America, 2 billion in North America, 3.3 billion in Egypt, Suez and South 
Africa, and 2.2 billion in Asia. Of the British capital invested abroad, half 
was invested in the Empire, but only a small share in the newly acquired 
African possessions. 

The first question is why France and England had so much capital avail¬ 
able for foreign investment. The standard answer is the inequality of the dis¬ 
tribution of income, but the figures do not entirely confirm this classical 
explanation. The French saving^have been estimated at 2 billion for the 
1875-93 period, at 3.5 billion for the 1900-11 period, and at 5 billion on the 
eve of the war. Now the national income was on the order of 27 to 28 billion 
in 1903, 32 to 35 billion in 1913, perhaps higher than 35 billion in 1914: 
savings did not exceed an average of 10 to 12 per cent of the national income, 
and the foreign investments represented some 35 per cent of those savings!!! 
The total amount of savings not being abnormally high, the incitement to 
export capital must have been exceptionally strong or else the demand for 
investments in metropolitan France relatively weak (probably both at the 
same time). 

Similarly in Great Britain, for the year 1907, one British economist ar¬ 
rives at the following figures: the investment of fixed capital rose to £275 
million, the addition to stocks rose to £20 million, the addition to the stock 
of durable goods rose to £30 million; the maintenance of capital representing 
£175 million, the net domestic investment rose to £150 million and the foreign 

IssjThe national revenue was on the order of 35 billion gold francs. 

H 3 Cf. R. Pupin, La Richesse de la France devant la guerre, Paris, 1916, and La 
Richesse privee et les finances frangaises, Paris, 1919; J. Lescure, L’Epargne en France, 
Paris. 1914. 

H Furthermore, we must not forget that foreign investments were drawn increasingly 
from the incomes of previous investments. French investments abroad began again, 
after the War of 1870, starting in 1886. They reached an average of 450 to 550 
million francs between 1886 and 1890, from 519 to 619 million francs between 
1891 and 1896, from 1,157,000,000 to 1,257,000,000 francs between 1897 and 
1902, from 1,359,000,000 to 1,459,000,000 francs between 1903 and 1908, from 
1,239,000,000 to 1,339,000,000 francs between 1909 and 1913 (the figures taken from 
H. Feis, op. cit., p. 44, referring to H. G. Moulton and C. Lewis, The French Debt 
Problem, New York, 1925). The income from foreign investments is regularly equal to 
or higher than the investments during these periods. (Feis, p. 44.) 

ISSJA. K. Caimcross, Home and Foreign Investment, Cambridge, 1953, p. 121. 



investment to £135 million. In short, this latter represented nearly half of the 
total net investment. “It was also symptomatic that Britain herself had in¬ 
vested abroad about as much as her entire industrial and commercial capital, 
excluding land, and that one-tenth of her national income came to her as 
interest on foreign investment.®] 

Of these two causes, one, at least, is sufficiently well known from historical 
study. French capital was drawn outside the country by excess profits not 
always paid to the owners of this capital® but to the intermediaries, the 
bankers. These excess profits would not have been enough to induce the 
exodus of French capital to Russia or the Balkans had the government not 
used the nation’s financial power as an instrument in its diplomacy. Some¬ 
times the loans served for the construction, in Russia, of strategically impor¬ 
tant railroads, sometimes they guaranteed projects for national industry, 
sometimes they insured the loyalty of certain nations in which a party favor¬ 
able to the Central Powers opposed a party favorable to the Allies. 

Investments made outside Great Britain were much less influenced by 
diplomatic considerations than French investments, and it is not impossible 
to argue, even today, that on the whole they afforded Great Britain at least 
as many advantages as disadvantages!!!! The yield from foreign state bonds 
and from shares in foreign corporations was, on the whole, higher than that 
from domestic investments. The distribution of this capital among various 
uses (£1,531 million in railroad stocks) and the various regions of the world 
(over half in North and South America, almost half in the Empire) confirms 
the economic motivation of the movement of English capital. 

\Mllbid., p. 3. Perhaps the following indications are even more striking: “In the forty 
years 1875—1914 capital at home (other than land) increased from about £.5,000 m. 
to about £9,200 m., or by over 80%. Foreign investment rose from £1,100 m. to say 
£4,000 m. in 1914, or by some 250%. Taking absolute figures, capital investment 
probably constituted of three parts home and two parts foreign investment. Of the 
investment at home a large part was needed merely to maintain capital per head, for 
the number of employed persons rose by about 50% between the boom years of 1873 and 
1913. Out of a surplus of £4,500 m. beyond what was necessary in order to keep 
domestic capital per head constant, not far short of £3,000 m. or some 60-65% was 
actually employed to increase Britain’s foreign investments” (p. 4). 
l 88 lD id foreign investments yield the investor more than comparable domestic in¬ 

Cairncross doubts this in relation to French investments: “It has been estimated 
that in 1899 the yield on domestic securities at the price of issue averaged 4.28%, 
while the yield on foreign securities was no more than 3.85%. At the market price 
in 1900, the yields were 2.23 and 3.84% respectively. The difference, whether positive 
or negative, was trifling” (p. 225). 

Feis (p. 36), quoting French authors, states that the yield from foreign investments 
was higher than that from the corresponding investments in France, 3.13 per cent and 
4.20 per cent respectively in 1903; 3.40 per cent and 4.62 per cent in 1911. 

In the case of England there is no doubt that the yield from foreign investments was 
higher. In 1905-9, according to Cairncross (p. 227), the yields were as follows: 
domestic investments: 3.61 per cent; colonial investments: 3.94 per cent; foreign in¬ 
vestments: 4.97 per cent. 

Hcf. Cairncross, op. cit., pp. 224-35. 



During the final period before the First World War, Germany, in its turn, 
had joined the “club of lenders,” impelled both by political ambition and by 
the desire for economic expansion. The German bankers were sometimes 
seeking higher profits, sometimes vast enterprises that were expressed by in¬ 
dustrial projects. Occasionally, the German government, In its turn, counted 
on capital to gain political influence or to orient the diplomacy of certain 
Balkan or Near Eastern countries in its favor. However, the German econ¬ 
omy, which was developing more rapidly than that of Great Britain or of 
France, had higher investment rates but also a greater need of its own 
capital. German foreign investments were between 22 and 25 billion marks. 
The annual long-term export of capital, during the twenty years that preceded 
the war, rose to some 600 million marks; they represented in 1914 only 2 per 
cent of the national income!^ at most. 

It is not without interest to compare the export of European capital, before 
the First World War, with the aid to the underdeveloped countries since the 
Second. A double similarity appears. In both cases the export of capital con¬ 
tributes to the development of the nations in the process of modernization: 
British capital, at the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of 
the twentieth, helped Argentina to construct railroads, the United States to 
build great industries; similarly, American capital has powerfully contributed 
to the revival of Western Europe, Russian capital will permit the construction 
of the Aswan Dam. Today, as yesterday, exports of capital are not entirely 
disinterested: European loans were seeking a higher return or else were at 
the service of national diplomacy; American gifts are governed, partially at 
least, by political considerations. But it would be a mistake, in history, to 
grow indignant over what Kant called “the radical evil”; let us not insist that 
men do good for the sake of good, let us be satisfied that their selfishness or 
their rivalry achieves the good results which might have been sought directly 
by men of good will. 

Both loans of capital in 1900 and aid to underdeveloped countries in i960 
are linked to the strictly political competition of states. France loaned to Rus¬ 
sia so that the Russian mobilization might be accelerated in case of a gen¬ 
eralized war. It made loans to Rumania with the hope that the latter would 
side with the Allied camp. The United States has aided Europe with the 
hope that prosperity would raise a barrier against communism. They were aid¬ 
ing the underdeveloped countries to forestall Soviet aid, with the vague idea 
that ideas accompany capital and technologists. On the other hand, one 
difference strikes us: the order of magnitude is not the same. The income 
from foreign investments represented 6 per cent of the French national in¬ 
come on the eve of the First World War, some 9 per cent of the British na¬ 
tional income. France’s annual loans on the eve of the war amounted to some 
4 per cent of the national income in France; they rose to a still higher per- 

Efcf. Feis, op. tit., pp. 71-72. 



centage in Great Britain. One per cent of the American gross national 
product would be equivalent, in i960, to five billion dollars, 3 per cent to 
fifteen billion dollars. The needs of domestic investments no longer left so 
large an amount of capital available. The cumulative surpluses in foreign 
accounts which, before 1914, tended to the continuous increase of foreign 
investments, have not been repeated since 1945. On the contrary, American 
surpluses from foreign investments have been gradually balanced and then 
exceeded by the export of capital, the expenses of maintaining American 
troops and governmental aid to foreign countries. 

Between 1880 and 1914 the volume of available French and English capi¬ 
tal prevented neither the growth of production nor the rise of the standard of 
livingEUlt is not certain that the rich furnished the greatest part of the 
savings. In France, the petite bourgeoisie followed a traditional way of life 
and made every effort to save as much as possible. Durable consumer goods 
were only beginning to appear. Occasions for spending did not multiply so 
rapidly as today. Lastly, and perhaps this is the essential fact, in the pre-1914 
capitalist regime, investments resulted chiefly from decisions taken by en¬ 
trepreneurs. The psychology of the latter is not reducible to the reasoning 
elaborated by pure theory. The spirit of initiative, of creation, of investment 
varies with the social context. It is different in i960 from what it was in 1910. 

Whatever the case, surpluses of capital were not the direct cause of either 
the colonial conquests or the First World War. Why would France have 
conquered North Africa or Equatorial Africa because of such surpluses since 
she was not investing them there? (The same reasoning applies to Great 
Britain.) The rivalry for the profitable investment of surplus capital is not 
a myth. What is a myth is that the capitalists, bankers or industrialists have, 
as a class and to increase their excess profits, incited the European govern¬ 
ments to conquer colonies, that is, to wage war on each other. 

As for the colonies, historical study readily demonstrates three propositions: 
1. There is no proportion between the importance of the colonial conquests, 
accomplished by the various nations of Europe at the end of the nineteenth 
century, and the need each of these nations would have had for them if the 
theory^ which explains colonial imperialism by “capitalist contradictions” 
were true. 2. The colonies of recent acquisition, that is, essentially, the 
French, English and German empires in Africa, absorbed only a small frac¬ 
tion of the foreign commerce of the metropolitan nations. Trade between 
industrialized nations was more important in absolute figures than trade be¬ 
tween industrialized nations and non-industrialized nations. Political posses¬ 
sion involved neither generally nor immediately an increase of trade with the 
metropolitan nations. 3. In some cases of armed conflicts or of colonial con¬ 
quests, private groups, great corporations or adventurers have played a role, 

[HI The latter, however, seems to have made little progress between 1900 and 1914 
in France. 

EUWhether this theory invokes vital outlets or the search for excess-profits. 



exerted a pressure on diplomats or statesmen. But, at the origin of the 
“diplomacy of imperialism” (in the meaning W. L. Langer gives this 
expression), the strictly political impulse seems stronger than economic mo¬ 
tivations. The desire for greatness and glory which animates the leaders of 
men has had a more lasting effect on the course of events than the more or 
less camouflaged influence of corporations. 

It is impossible to measure precisely the strict efficacy of each cause or the 
exact motive of each individual. If we consider the case of the French Em¬ 
pire in Africa without postulating an interpretation in advance, the facts do 
not suggest that the French government intervened in Tunisia to safeguard 
French interests in secondary companies; quite the contrary, the French 
government invoked these interests in order to justify an intervention which 
statesmen saw as a means of preventing Italian colonization, guaranteeing 
the security of the Algerian borders and providing evidence of French re¬ 
covery. Similarly, in Morocco, the banks and corporations were attracted by 
the opportunities offered to them by conquests more than they forced the 
parliament and ministers to launch the enterprise. South of the Sahara, 
missionaries, explorers and officers were, originally, more active and more 
impassioned than big business. The American historian E. Staley, in his book 
War and the Private Investor, has more often remarked on the desire of states¬ 
men than on the intrigues of capitalists as being the source of conquests. 

Such an interpretation is not dogmatic. It does not exclude the fact that 
the Boer War and the British protectorate in Egypt were entirely or largely 
provoked by the action of private groups. It does not exclude the fact that 
after taking possession, individuals or societies have profited by French or 
British sovereignty, either to obtain concessions of territory, or to reserve for 
themselves a profitable trade, or to insure high profits by the exploitation of 
rich natural resources and payment of low salaries. To say that the nations of 
Western Europe were not obliged in order to maintain the capitalist regime 
or the welfare of the people to take possession of Africa is not to say that once 
the conquest was made the colonists did not dominate and exploit the van¬ 
quished, as all conquerors have done down through the ages. 

What makes European imperialism in Africa spuriously mysterious, in the 
eyes of certain historians, is that it is not modern if only those phenomena 
determined by economics are modern. Even if, following Lenin, we de¬ 
scribed the capitalist economies as involved in spite of themselves in an end¬ 
less expansion toward exploitation and the division of the planet, we could 
not thereby explain the fact that a France without dynamism established her 
sovereignty over territories to which she sent neither surplus population nor 
surplus capital nor surplus manufactured products. Imperial conquest re¬ 
mained, in the minds of the European statesmen, the sign of greatness. 
Europe was at peace, the Western Hemisphere protected by the Monroe Doc¬ 
trine. One took what remained to be taken, and the unwritten law of com- 


pensation, which the diplomacy of cabinets obeyed, obliged the states to claim 
in turn a share of a continent which all could have safely ignored. 

Such imperialism nonetheless created diplomatic conflicts between the 
great powers: the Reich regarded itself as a kind of victim of the French 
establishment in Morocco, as though humiliated that the neighboring re¬ 
public, weakened as it was, should enlarge its territories while Germany re¬ 
mained enclosed within its frontiers. The liberal-minded economists, on their 
side, stressed that the causes of the conflicts were those encouraging the 
return of the mercantile spirit. It was not sovereignty, they said, that mattered 
on the economic level, it was the action of the sovereign. Let the sovereign 
maintain equal conditions for all rivals and the flags floating over the public 
buildings will be of no consequence. But the colonial spirit was increasingly 
marked by the old mercantile spirit. The state, whether colonist or protector, 
reserved for its nationals the concessions of territories or mines, top adminis¬ 
trative posts, and commerce with the metropolitan nation for its own mer¬ 
chant marine. Far from concealing them, the leagues which undertook to 
popularize the imperial expansion of Great Britain and France (like the 
Ligue maritime et coloniale') tended to exaggerate the profits of imperialism. 
Public opinion inclined to indifference or to skepticism. Propaganda was not 
so much directed against the “Marxists” as against the “liberals.” Whereas 
the former could be dealt with by invoking the “civilizing mission,” against 
the latter, it was necessary to prove that the metropolitan nation owed a good 
share of its prosperity to its colonies. 

Were leaders and peoples so convinced by their own ideology that they 
desired or accepted the First World War, the division of the globe, as neces¬ 
sary (in the double sense of the word)? There is nothing to prove that this 
was the case. It was not over colonial conflicts that the nations went to war, 
but over conflicts of nationalities in the Balkans. In Morocco, French and 
German banks were more disposed to come to terms than the chancelleries. 
The fate of the southern Slavs jeopardized the existence of Austria-Hungary, 
thus affecting the whole of the European equilibrium. Were the English de¬ 
termined to conquer Germany in order to eliminate a commercial rival? This 
legend does not stand up under scrutiny. Certain sectors of the British export 
trade were affected by German exports. Both nations increased their sales 
abroad, although German progress was swifter. Shall we say that British pub¬ 
lic opinion mistakenly believed the national prosperity was threatened? 
British public opinion was as conscious of the complementarity as of the 
opposition between the two economies: they were each other’s best customer 
and best purveyor. The voices of the liberals who denounced the futility of 
conquest carried farther than those backward champions of mercantilism who 
appealed to arms to save commerce. 

Actually the War of 1914, like European imperialism in Africa, was es¬ 
sentially a traditional phenomenon. It was, in origin, a general war of a typi¬ 
cal character: all the member states of the international system were involved 



in the struggle because the latter jeopardized the structure of the system. The 
statesmen discovered too late that industry transformed the nature of war 
more than there was occasion for conflict. 

4. Capitalism and Imperialism 

The facts we have discussed in the preceding paragraph do not refute any 
particular theory of imperialism, but they make plausible a more complex in¬ 
terpretation than that of the Marxists or of certain liberals. It is not in a period 
when conquests are less profitable and wars more ruinous than in any other 
that we should explain either of them by a purely economic mechanism. Does 
the abstract analysis of the capitalist system permit us to adopt a notion which 
empirical analysis seems to deny? 

Let us first recall that the tendency of the capitalist—-that is, progressive 
and industrial—economy to spread throughout the world is not in question. 
Every school admits this much. The theory should prove that capitalist econ¬ 
omy cannot survive without territories that are not yet capitalist, or, that it is 
condemned by its internal contradictions to divide up the world into colonial 
empires and spheres of influence, and that such division cannot be pacific. 

Of the first proof—that capitalist economies cannot survive without popu¬ 
lations still alien to the capitalist mode of production—we shall say only a 
few words. It has been attempted by Rosa Luxembourg, and rejected by 
Lenin and the principal Marxists: it is no more than a historical curiosity. 

The proof takes as its point of departure the division of all modem econ¬ 
omy into two sectors, one which produces the means of production and one 
which produces consumer goods. Each of these two sectors produces a value 
which is subdivided, according to Marxist concepts, into constant capital, 
variable capital and surplus value. Thus: 

I=Ci-|-I/i-f-S, (production goods) 

II=C2-j-V , 2+S2 (consumer goods) 

In a process of simple reproduction, surplus value can be "realized” (in the 
Marxist sense of the term) only if equality is constantly maintained between 
the sum of the variable capital and the surplus value in sector I, and the 
constant capital in sector II.^H 

Now let us consider the process known as that of expanded reproduction. 
A part of the surplus value of the two sectors is consumed by the capitalist, 
another part is reinvested so that the constant capital is enlarged. This in¬ 
vestment of a part of the surplus value constitutes what Marx called the 
accumulation of capital. 

Let us take as point of departure the accumulation of capital in sector I. 

& 3 !ln simple reproduction, variable capital and surplus value are entirely consumed. 
Now the sum (Cb-f-Vg-pS,) represents the totality of consumer goods available. Foi 
Vj and Sj to be consumed they must be equal to C 2 . 



The surplus value is subdivided into two parts: one which will be consumed 
by the capitalist, the other which will be transformed into capital for the 
next phase. Henceforth the equation C2=Vi+Si is transformed. The total 
value of consumer goods, that is, the total value of sector II, should be equal 
to the sum of the variable capital of sector I and sector II, the consumed 
part of the surplus value of sector I, and the consumed part of the surplus 
value of sector II (ItlAq-k^-l-SiC-f-SbC). Or again, the total value of 
sector I should equal the sum of the constant capital of the two sectors plus 
the reinvested fraction of the surplus values of the two sectors. Within the 
system defined by these schemes, the process of expanded reproduction can 
take place unhampered only if these equations are respected. 

Are they? Rosa Luxembourg, her disciples and her critics have played 
with numerical examples. They have finally concluded that these equations 
can be maintained on the condition that the rate of accumulation in sector 
II (consumer goods) be determined by the rate of accumulation in sector I. 
This conclusion, moreover, has what we might call the quality of evidence. 
The authors posited the necessary equation between the constant capital of 
sector II and the sum of the variable capital and the surplus value consumed 
by the capitalists of sector I. This equation will be respected only in the 
cases in which the increase of one of the two terms of the equation controls 
the increase of the other. The Marxists, admitting that the accumulation of 
capital is the essential phenomenon and the resiliency of the capitalist system, 
first of all posit the growth of sector I by reinvestment of almost all the sur¬ 
plus value. The value of sector II—in other words, of the consumer goods— 
should not exceed the value of the consumption of the workers of both sectors 
(Vi and V2), plus the share of the surplus value of each sector consumed 
by the capitalists. Otherwise, the surplus value could not be “realized,” in 
other words the values, under the physical form in which they present them¬ 
selves, would not find a corresponding demand. There might exist, for 
instance, an “unsalable” (or unrealizable) surplus of value, embodied in 
consumer goods, which would not find a taker within the system. 

The idea of an unsalable surplus of consumer goods within the capitalist 
system (linked to the Marxist notion that capitalism is subject to the law of 
concentration and that wages are maintained at the lowest possible level) 
would be reinforced and renewed by the consideration of the relation be¬ 
tween the two sectors. As a matter of fact, the accumulation does not really 
consist of reinvesting an important share of the surplus value in order to pro¬ 
duce more goods according to the same organic composition of capital; if this 
were the case, there would be no insurmountable difficulties about respecting, 
in the process of expanded reproduction, the equation C 2 =Vi-f-S 1 . But the 
essence of technological progress, Rosa Luxembourg and her commentators 
tell us, consists in modifying the relation of C to V; thus the maintenance of 
proportionate values between the constant capital of one sector and the vari¬ 
able capital of the other is contradictory and impossible. Or at least, according 

27 ° 


to the last of these backward disciples of Rosa Luxembourg, “the conditions 
of equilibrium require, ultimately, a slowing down of the rhythm of techno¬ 
logical progress and even of the rhythm of the increase of production in sector 
II as progress increases in sector I, and this to such a degree that, if we 
imagined a very intense technological progress in sector I, it might have as 
its counterpart a requirement for a production halt or even a deferment in 
sector II.’lSl 

Is it possible to find factual evidence in order to prove this contradiction? 

I do not believe so. In the course of the first phase of industrial development, 
the capitalist nations have perhaps tended to export consumer goods, but 
these were manufactured products such as textiles. Today, the underde¬ 
veloped nations of the world, in the process of industrialization, also desire 
to sell textile products abroad, not because of a surplus of value in sector 

II in relation to the domestic purchasing power available for consumer goods, 
but because such manufactured products are simpler, their technology less 
difficult than that of most factory-produced goods. At present, the so-called 
capitalist nations export, in the percentage of their total exports, increasing 
amounts of manufactured goods, for the simple reason that the nations in 
the process of development wish to equip themselves and reserve their scarce 
foreign currency for such equipment. It would be reckless to conclude from 
this that the relation between the two sectors results in a permanent excess 
of production goods. 

Nor has the transformation of agriculture during the last 150 years tended 
to confirm the contradiction between the necessary equation of C 2 and 
Vjlon the one hand, or the modification of the relation between C and V 
on the other. The technological progress in agriculture has been slow or fast, 
depending on the nations and the periods of capitalism. It has slowed down 
in the nadons where additional production stimulated or risked stimulating 
the collapse of the market—in any case had to be exported. It has accelerated 
for some twenty years in the United States for reasons that appear even more 
technological than social. The complexity of the variables which control 
technological progress in capitalist agriculture is such that it is impossible to 
find in the facts the confirmation of the “contradiction” discovered by Rosa 

That the speed of accumulation in sector I tends to slow down the techno¬ 
logical progress in sector II might be suggested by a single historical experi¬ 
ment: that of the Soviet Union. Production and productivity have advanced 
in sector I faster than in sector II. There has not been any surplus of produc¬ 
tion in sector II but, since the capitalist law of accumulation functions to the 
full in sector I and since the surplus value, appropriated by the state, was 

EULuden Goldmann, R echerches dialectiques, Paris, 1959, p. 336. 

ESThis equation is simplified: developed, it should he C 2 -j-CA 2 =V 1 -f-VA 1 (CA 2 
is the supplementary constant capital of sector II, VA t the supplementary variable 
capital of sector I?. 



massively reinvested, neither the variable capital of sector I nor the constant 
capital of sector II increased rapidly. The forced rhythm of accumulation in 
sector I has not been the only cause, in terms of production and productivity, 
of the slowness of the progress of Soviet agriculture. The peasant resistance 
to collectivization has also been responsible. The Soviet case Illustrates none¬ 
theless the mechanism, imagined by certain Marxists, which has functioned 
only in a planned system: if one accelerates the rhythm of accumulation in 
sector I, the only way of avoiding a surplus of consumer goods is to slow 
down the rhythm of accumulation and of technological progress in sector II. 

We are not concerned with discussing in detail the theoretical schemes of 
Rosa Luxembourg, which are mainly of historical interest. But it is evident 
that the increase of the capital intensity per worker—that is, the value of the 
machines with which the wage-earners work—could not be expressed, with¬ 
out excessive simplification, by the formula of the increase of C in relation to 
V. The fraction of the value of the constant capital transmitted to each piece 
of merchandise depends on the duration of the machine, the degree of amorti¬ 
zation, the number of products manufactured with the same machine. The 
detours of production become increasingly long. The share of wages in the 
national income does not decrease nor does the relation of the value of capi¬ 
tal to the annual value of production increase. In the last analysis, all the 
theories concerning the contradictions in the capitalist regime are based on 
the hypothesis that the real wages remain at the lowest level. 

Hence I am tempted to believe that the best (or the better of two evils) 
way of transforming into an “economic theory of imperialism” the facts which 
J. A. Hobson described and which Lenin utilized is that of Mr. John 
Strachey, in his last bookJiH that is to say, to consider the export of capital 
and political-economic imperialism as one of the two ways out available to 
capitalism, while the other is the increase of the purchasing power of the 
masses by the raising of real wages. 

J. A. Hobson described the imperialist movement of the last quarter of the 
nineteenth century and of the beginning of the twentieth as follows. Within 
nations, minorities are passionately interested in conquest. Members of the 
ruling class find, in remote possessions, glamorous and well-paid posts for 
their sons. Industrial or commercial enterprises accumulate excess profit. 
Capitalists invest their money around the world and gradually become 
rentiers, parasites of a national economy which, in its turn, becomes a parasite 
of w'orld economy. 

Historical study has not refuted this total view of a kind of symbiosis 
between many individual interests and the imperialist diplomacy of the Euro¬ 
pean nations. It has led to a subtler and more complex interpretation, the 
initiative of loans of capital or of conquest having often been taken by 
politicians and not by businessmen, for diplomatic motives and not with a 

\EThe End of Empire, London, 1959. 



view to profits. But it has shown how arbitrary was the “theory” which Lenin 
attempted to derive from the facts collected by Hobson, a theory which is 
summed up in three propositions: the export of capital was inevitable, the 
seizure or creation of zones of influence necessary, and the peaceful division 
of the planet impossible. 

Mr. John Strachey adopts the first proposition in order to save an essential 
element of the theory. He cites a passage from Lenin on imperialism: 

“It goes without saying that if capitalism could develop agriculture, 
which today lags far behind industry everywhere, if it could raise 
the standard of living of the masses, who are everywhere still 
poverty-stricken and underfed, in spite of the amazing advance in 
technical knowledge, there could be no talk of a superfluity of capi¬ 
tal. This ‘argument’ the petit bourgeois critics of capitalism advance 
on every occasion. But if capitalism did these things it would not be 
capitalism; for uneven development and wretched conditions of the 
masses are the fundamental and inevitable conditions and premises 
of this mode of production. As long as capitalism remains what it is, 
surplus capital will never he used for the purpose of raising the 
standard of living of the masses, in a given country, for this would 
mean a decline in profits for the capitalists; it will be used for the 
purpose of increasing those profits by exporting capital abroad to 
the backward countries. In these backward countries, profits usually 
are high, for capital is scarce, the price of land is relatively low, raw 
materials are cheap. The possibility of exporting capital is created 
by the entry of numerous backward countries into international cap¬ 
italist intercourse; main railways have either been built or are being 
built there; the elementary conditions for industrial developments 
have been created, etc. The necessity of exporting capital arises from 
the fact that in a few countries capitalism has become ‘over-ripe’ 
and (owing to the backward state of agriculture and the impover¬ 
ished state of the masses) capital cannot find ‘profitable invest¬ 
ments.’ ’SI 

We know today that the capitalist regime—-private ownership of the means 
of production and mechanisms of the market—can, without destroying it¬ 
self, raise the standard of living of the masses. We even know that this eleva¬ 
tion conforms to the properly interpreted interest of the propertied class. The 
debate henceforth focuses on two points: 1. Does ideal capitalism—as a type 
analyzed according to a pure model—tend to the accumulation of capital and 
to the misery of the masses, with only government action, favored by po¬ 
litical democracy, reversing the action of spontaneous forces; or on the con- 

\Mhmperidism, The Final Stage of Capitalism, HJhapter ivi quoted in Strachey, op. 
cit., pp. 110-11. 



trary, is the true model that o£ a simultaneous growth of production, 
productivity and the level of the masses? 2. Has the immediate and neces¬ 
sary cause of the exports of capital and political-military imperialism at the 
end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth been the 
distribution of income, the lack of profitable domestic investments? 

The determination of a model for capitalism can never avoid some measure 
of the arbitrary. It is not impossible to construct a model which would in¬ 
volve a tendency to impoverishment. But, as a matter of fact, even omitting 
the foreseeable interventions of a democratic state, an economic regime such 
as that of the West at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of 
the twentieth may have stimulated an increased concentration of wealth; it 
did not bring about the aggravated poverty of the masses. We must assume 
an enormous industrial reserve army if the progress of productivity (or the 
reduction of the necessary labor time, in Marxist language) is not expressed 
by at least a constancy of real wages and generally by a rise in the latter. 

It would certainly not be less erroneous to construct a model of market 
economy which would result in a balanced growth of all nations within the 
same system, and of all regions or all classes within a single nation. Depend¬ 
ing on many circumstances, the cumulative process tends to reduce or enlarge 
the gaps between the economic collectivities. During the period which we 
are considering, did the inequality of income among classes impose upon 
European capitalism the export of capital and imperialism? Let us grant that 
it is difficult to answer categorically yes or no. It would be paradoxical to 
deny that there was a link between the social structure, the distribution of 
income and the surplus of capital. It would be risky to assert that these for¬ 
eign investments were indispensable at the same time as being tempting (by 
reason of superior yield). The interrelation of political and economic moti¬ 
vations, as we have seen, prohibits a simple theory. 

Further, even if we subscribe to the relationship of the poverty of the 
masses and the export of capital, the economic interpretation of imperialism 
is not thereby established. 

The tremendous amount of capital invested by Europeans in the territories 
over which they did not exercise sovereignty, the insignificance of the sums 
invested precisely where they did exercise sovereignty, shows the relative in¬ 
dependence of the two movements, one of capital, the other of soldiers. Set¬ 
ting aside France, whose conquests in North Africa were long, slow and 
costly, the European nations intervened in areas where possession did not 
require great efforts. The Europeans did not guarantee their most important 
investments by political sovereignty; they seized weak or anarchic nations, 
either to establish profitable conditions of trade with them, or to acquire 
strategic positions, or to round out and protect territories already annexed, or 
finally to serve their glory. 

Shall we say, as Lenin occasionally suggests, that the variety of forms— 
zone of influence, protectorate, colony—in which the European domination 



was exercised are of little consequence, that they are merely expressions of 
the same profound fact, European domination? This answer is equivalent to 
recognizing the distinction between the economic movement and the political 
movement. This separation has never been so marked in the modem period 
as at the end of the nineteenth century. The conquest of South America by 
the Spanish, the exploitation of men and resources by the European masters 
in permanent colonies are inseparable. The conquest of India starting from 
the commercial activity of a British corporation constitutes another example 
of this traditional transition from exploitation to the acquisition of sover¬ 
eignty. It is at the end of the nineteenth century that, because capitalism 
had become industrial at the same time as commercial, in one place the 
Europeans chose to conquer without finding wealth on the spot, and in an¬ 
other to invest their capital without conquering. 

Thereby, the third proposition—the impossibility of division—is shown for 
what it is; purely arbitrary. The impossibility of peaceful division or of 
equitable compromise is a vestige of the mercantilist doctrine. Were the great 
corporations, the banks, the states animated by such a spirit of monopoly that 
they considered war inevitable? Neither the facts nor reasoning afford any 
basis to such a proposition. The Europeans had no difficulty finding use for 
their capital around the world. At the beginning of the twentieth century, 
world economy was in a phase of expansion and rising prices. Monopolistic 
exclusion remained a relatively rare practice. The colonizers or moneylenders 
were assured of advantages in competition; they did not deprive their rivals 
of all opportunities. 

Shall we say, with John Strachey, that the unequal development of the 
metropolitan states was the insurmountable obstacle to peaceful division? 
That the capitalistic nations have had unequal rates of demographic and 
economic growth is incontestable, but the phenomenon does not date 
from capitalism. The instability of international relations, for centuries and 
millenniums, derives precisely from the fluctuation of the relative forces of 
states. This fluctuation, for the last two centuries particularly, depends on 
the number of men and factories as well as on the authority of the sovereigns. 
The rate of development determines directly the configuration of the diplo¬ 
matic system. At the beginning of the twentieth century the dimensions of 
the various colonial empires were not proportional to the (economic or mili¬ 
tary) forces of the metropolitan states. If this was the cause of the War of 
1914, as Lenin suggests, the explanation has nothing to do with Marxism- 
Leninism: Germany would have been warlike out of resentment against her 
rivals who enjoyed a richer place in the sun. For this interpretation by un¬ 
equal development to constitute an economic theory of the fatal struggle for 
the division of the world, the state disfavored in the distribution of colonies 
would be obliged by economic necessity to attack its unjustly privileged 
rivals. If monopoly—the exclusion of rivals by force—is indispensable to 
capitalist economies, the nation whose development has been the swiftest, 



Germany, should have been paralyzed by the weakness of its own monopolies 
or by the exclusion which the monopolies of the others inflicted upon it. Yet 
in 1913 we find nothing of the kind: Germany’s development continued to 
be swifter than that of the other European nations; foreign trade, export of 
capital also progressed. Theoretical analysis as well as empirical study lead to 
a traditional conclusion: perhaps the peaceful division would have been im¬ 
possible, but it is not modem capitalism, it is the age-old avarice which led 
to war. If statesmen and peoples had acted according to economic rationality, 
the War of 1914 would not have taken place. Neither monopolies nor dia¬ 
lectic had made inevitable what was irrational. 

Modem industrial economy is the first which questions the economic utility 
of conquest. Slavery was rational, in the economic sense of the term, once the 
yield of servile labor left a surplus for the master, in other words, when the 
slave produced more than what he needed to survive. Conquest was rational 
only when the spoils were higher than the cost of the battle or of dominion. 
Empire was rational as long as commerce was in essence monopolistic, fol¬ 
lowed the flag or had as its objective the possession of precious metals, the 
stock of which was limited. This rationality, for an economy considered as a 
whole, is no longer evident once wealth depends on free labor, once exchange 
favors both parties to it, once producers and merchants both gain advantage 
in accepting competition. 

Liberals and socialists are more or less aware of this original feature of 
the modem economy. But, observing the facts of imperialism, they emphasize 
other, no less real aspects, of that economy which render imperialism intel¬ 
ligible. An economy of exchanges, to the degree that it is at the same time 
industrial, is charged with a kind of dynamism. It tends to spread throughout 
the entire world and to include all of humanity. Marx had said it in the 
Communist Manifesto and he had seen clearly. 

We shall not here discuss whether, by some mysterious malformation, a 
regime of private property is incapable of absorbing its own production. In 
any case, certain sectors of industry will occasionally be threatened with over¬ 
production. Growth occurs, without a general plan, by a series of creative 
imbalances. How can we deny that dominion over foreign territories facili¬ 
tates the sale of manufactured products which do not find buyers in the 
mother country? 

Further, the European or world-wide economy did not conform to Ben- 
tham’s ideal model. Trusts, cartels, maintenance of high domestic prices, 
dumping abroad—these practices of the commercial war, contrary to the es¬ 
sence of a free economy, had not disappeared. To these residues of the spirit 
of monopoly, liberal sociologists and economists imputed the imperialist en¬ 
terprises of the capitalist and bourgeois nations, while the socialists tried to 
prove that this spirit of monopoly and conquest was inseparable from capi¬ 
talism itself. 

Both were wrong. Insofar as it was of economic origin and signification, 



the imperialism of the end of the nineteenth century was not the last stage 
of capitalism hut the last stage of mercantile imperialism, itself the last stage 
of millennial imperialism. Hobson and Schumpete :{3 emphasized in fact the 
privileged minorities that tended toward imperialism, contrary to the spirit 
of industry and commerce. But they forgot that men and, still more, states 
have always desired dominion for its own sake. 

It is not enough that empire be economically sterile for the people or for 
those who speak in their names to renounce the glory of dominion. 

5. Capitalism and Socialism 

Every modem economy gives states an unprecedented capacity to act 
abroad, since it enlarges the gap between the minimum indispensable to the 
life of the population and the available goods. The greater this gap, the 
higher the maximum degree of state mobilization of collective resources. War 
is evidently not the only possible use abroad of the resources mobilized: aid 
is another, but war has been the most frequent. That the capacity for pro¬ 
duction creates a surplus which men can consume by killing each other is 
true for any economy of our period, whatever the regime. Stripped of the 
passions and confusions perpetuated by a century of propaganda and ideo¬ 
logical disputes, the question of the influence on the possibility of peace and 
the risk of war exerted by the choice between a capitalist regime (private 
ownership and market mechanisms) and a socialist regime (public owner¬ 
ship and planning) leads in the abstract to simple terms: What stakes, occa¬ 
sions, causes of conflicts, inseparable from capitalism, would the socialist 
regime suppress? What stakes, occasions, or causes would it create? By 
definition, competition for the investment of capital, the intervention of 
states in order to protect the interests of their nationals, threatened by ex¬ 
propriation laws, would be eliminated. Similarly, there would be no further 
private interests to exert pressures on the leaders with a view to obtaining 
higher tariff rates (which competitors regard as illegitimate or aggressive) or 
other privileges contrary to the rules of honest competition. Nonetheless, all 
occasions for conflicts between states in a socialist economy would not thereby 

The conditions of international exchanges, in a world market regime with 

D HjT. A. Hobson, Imperialism, London, 1902, and Joseph Schumpeter, op. cit. 

Schumpeter’s error seems to me to he explained by the confusion between the 
modern case and the ancient cases. Schumpeter, as we know, explained the imperialism 
of the Arabs, to take one example, by the persistence, in new conditions, of a traditional 
way of life. The Arab horsemen continued to conquer because in the desert war was 
the constant, normal activity adapted to circumstances. But modem societies are differ¬ 
entiated and are not defined by labor as the life of the Arab tribes was defined by 
horseback raids. The capitalists or the bourgeois do not devote themselves to business 
as the Arab horsemen devoted themselves to war. According to economic calculations, 
the bourgeois should be peaceful and anti-imperialist. But they do not apply economic 
calculations to their entire existence. 



relatively free prices, appear often inequitable to one or the other of the 
parties to the exchange, as a result of the inequality of economic and po¬ 
litical weight. The small country which owes almost all its foreign currency 
to the sale of one raw material is often subject to the dictates of the buyer 
and above all of the chief buyer. In spite of everything, the mechanisms of 
the market, even international, even imperfect, limit the influence of military 
force on commercial transactions. The day when these transactions become 
negotiations between governments, everything depends on men and on re¬ 
gimes. The increasing state control of international commerce enormously 
increases the possibilities of the exploitation of the weak by the strong. The 
Russian practices in Stalin’s time, the price at which the Poles had to sell 
their coal, illustrate one of the intrinsic risks of this kind of socialism as long 
as multiple sovereignties subsist. 

A regime of private property, as long as it is authentically liberal and as 
long as states, even hostile ones, respect it, has the advantage of reducing the 
profits of a military victory. The benefits afforded by rearrangements of bor¬ 
ders are limited, once individuals preserve their possessions and their pro¬ 
fessions. When the Saar was included within the French economic union, 
the goods the French obtained from it were paid for by those they sent to it. 
The goods which they no longer sell in the German Saar, they perhaps sell 
elsewhere just as profitably. 

Socialism does not favor the same separation of property and sovereignty. 
Domestic enterprises and persons are subject to the plan and the will of the 
state, but foreign buyers and sellers act according to their interest or their 
preferences. The tracing of borders therefore has a vital importance. Plan¬ 
ners do not like to depend on decisions beyond their control and imperfectly 
predictable. Annexation eliminates unforeseeability, it offers the possibility 
of putting nationals in positions of command, of transferring to the conquer¬ 
ing state the ownership of property taken from citizens of the conquered 
state. In theory a planned economy reinforces the motives for desiring the 
enlargement of the space of sovereignty. 

Veblen considered that the modem system of production was, in itself, 
peaceful, that on the other hand the entrepreneurs, industrialists, merchants 
and corporations animated by the desire for profit were creators of conflicts 
and responsible for wars. He forgot that the system of production, of itself, 
determines neither what goods will be produced nor how the collective re¬ 
sources will be distributed among the various uses, nor incomes among 
classes. These chiefly economic determinations can result either from the 
mechanisms of the market (more or less controlled or oriented by the state), 
or from a plan more or less thwarted by the weight of the material aspects of 

If we adopt the first solution, the stimulus to expansion or to protection 
comes from ambitious or threatened “private interests.” Some of these, in 
case of failure on the commercial terrain, mobilize public opinion or the state 



against their competitors. Even if the players accept all the rules of the game, 
the defeat which involves loss of jobs for workers or of income for capitalists 
provokes bitterness and resentment, which eventually influence those respon¬ 
sible for diplomatic behavior. Such a regime is all the less dangerous to inter¬ 
state relations in that the leaders are more likely to act according to long-term 
considerations and not to confuse with a permanent impoverishment the 
transitory sacrifices which the commercial struggle inevitably imposes from 
time to time. 

If the second solution is adopted, the chief variable consists of the -political 
regime and men. Rates of growth, the share of investments in the national 
product are by definition the object of decisions taken by the planners, that 
is, by the leaders of the state. It is to be feared that states, if they consider 
themselves engaged in a rivalry for power, will extend the traditional com¬ 
petition of military force to the economic sphere. But if all humanity had 
converted to a socialist regime, we might conceive a planned economy with 
an eye to welfare and the slowing down of the race for growth. 

No regime, then, whether capitalist or sodalist, makes war inevitable; none 
suppresses all occasions for it. It is even difficult to specify, in the abstract, 
which of these two regimes is more favorable or more contrary to pacification. 
What is not doubtful is that the conflict of regimes, within an international 
system, multiplies the causes and amplifies the stakes of conflicts. The Soviet 
Union has no need to conquer new territories in order to improve the con¬ 
ditions of the life of its people. The Soviet citizens would accommodate 
themselves easily to the survival of capitalism in other parts of the world: 
the so-called Marxist-Leninist regime based on the absolute power of a single 
party and on a state doctrine is nonetheless dedicated to expansion by a 
necessity which is not economic but political and ideological. It is a necessity 
in part imputable to circumstances: revolutionaries and rebels the world over 
experience the attraction of the Soviet technique and model. But this neces¬ 
sity also derives from the way of life and style of thought of the Bolshevik 
leaders: the political struggle is, in essence, continuous, permanent, and since 
international relations are conceived in imitation of the struggle between 
parties, they are also regarded as belligerent until the universal diffusion of 
redeeming truth. 

Every great ideocratic power, whatever its economic regime, is imperialistic 
if the effort to spread an idea and to impose a mode of government abroad, 
even by force, is specifically considered. In any case, such an effort appears 
imperialistic to those states that wish to safeguard their own institutions, even 
when the ideocratic power normally prefers subversion to invasion and re¬ 
frains from annexing the peoples which it converts to its faith. Crusaders 
have never been regarded as messengers of peace. It is in our age that they 
have drawn a dove on their blazon. 

chapter X 

Nations and Regimes 

In the preceding chapters we have analyzed the determinants which di¬ 
rectly influence the strength of political units that constitute the elements of 
the situation, as it is analyzed by the actors. Space, resources and number 
are possible stakes of the conflict, objectives of those who direct the political 
units. They may also be the unrecognized causes of collective behavior. The 
relations of space, number and resources define, in each period, the optimum 
of well-being or of power; they may govern, in certain circumstances, the 
warlike impulse of peoples; they provide more or less sincere justifications for 
the conquerors. 

In the next three chapters we shall no longer consider the determinants 
of the situation, but the actors’ styles of being and behaving, that is, the 
styles of the subjects of diplomatic history which we have called political 
units. Thus, we shall encounter a second type of explanation of wars. In¬ 
stead of invoking the inexorable determinism of need, the eternal hunger for 
gold or wealth, we shall be discussing the arraignment of “eternal Germany,” 
of “the despotic, Communist or democratic regime ,’0 the hypothesis of a 
fatal development of civilizations or the theory of human nature, the origin 
and outcome of history. In this chapter we shall proceed from political 
regimes (Section i) to national constants (Section 2) to return, by the 
intermediary of the nation considered as a historical type of political unit 
(Section 3), and of the diversity of military organizations (Section 4), to the 
present situation, characterized by the extreme heterogeneity of both states and 
modes of combat. 

1. On Political Regimes 

I shall take, for my point of departure, the questions which the commenta- 

01 n the chapter on Resources, we have already observed a problem of this type apropos 
of the Marxist-Leninist theory of imperialism. 



tors on foreign policy have continually raised since 1945: Is the foreign policy 
of the Soviet Union Russian or Communist? Is it or is it not influenced by 
the ideology which the revolutionary state claims as its inspiration? In 
abstract terms the question is as follows: In a given period, is the behavior of 
the actors a function (and to what degree) of the political regime? 

The political regimes of a given period, which preside over the organization 
of a certain type of society, inevitably present common characteristics. But 
they differ at least by the mode of designation of those who wield the sover¬ 
eign authority, by the manner in which these latter make their decisions, 
hence by the relations which are established between individuals, public 
opinion and social groups on the one hand, and those who govern on the 
other. The same men do not reach power in all regimes, they do not act 
under the same conditions or under the same pressures. To postulate that the 
same men in different circumstances or different men in the same circum¬ 
stances make equivalent decisions leads to a strange philosophy, implies one 
or the other of the two following theories: either diplomacy is rigorously 
determined by impersonal causes, the individual actors occupying the center 
of the stage but playing roles learned by heart, or else the conduct of the 
political units is controlled by a “national interest” capable of a rational 
definition, vicissitudes of internal struggles and changes of regimes not modi¬ 
fying (nor should they modify) this definition. Each of these philosophies, 
it seems to me, can be refuted by the facts. 

Did Stalin have the same vision of the historical world as Nicholas II? 
Would the latter’s successor have had the same vision as the militant Bolshe¬ 
vik who emerged victorious from the struggle among the diadochi? Did Hitler 
have the same vision of the future of Germany as Stresemann or Briining? 
Would the leader of a democratic party ot a Hohenzollem have hurled 
Germany against the Western democracies and the Soviet Union in the style 
adopted by the Fiihrer of the Third Reich? 

Rhetorical questions, the reader will object. It is obvious that the answer 
is negative: Hitler’s strategy and tactics were quite different from those of 
Stresemann or of a possible descendant of the King of Prussia. By strategy 
I mean both the long-term objectives and the representation of the historical 
universe which makes their choice intelligible; by tactics I mean the day-to-day 
reactions, the combination of means with a view to previously fixed ends. 
To claim that the strategy and tactics of a (national or imperial) political 
unit remain constant whatever the regime is quite simply absurd. In this 
sense the proposition: the diplomacy of the Soviet Union is Communist and 
not Russian, cannot be contested. The burden of proof lies, in any case, 
upon those who seek to deny it. 

Beyond this evidence stands the real problem. To what degree do foreign 
policies change with regimes? Let us note immediately: this is not a question 
of theory but of fact. The answer may vary according to periods and cir¬ 
cumstances. In our era, changes in regimes have involved diplomatic up- 


heavals. The external action of states has not been less influenced by ideolo¬ 
gies than the organization of societies. 

Let us take the two examples of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. 
Hitler’s undertaking was inspired by a philosophy in which were mingled 
theories of various origins: the racist theory of Gobineau or of Houston 
Chamberlain, the geopolitical theories of Mackinder and of Haushofer, con¬ 
tempt for the Slavs considered as Untermenschen, hatred of the Jews—an 
accursed race to be eliminated like harmful vermin, the need for population 
space in the direction of Eastern Europe, the detestation of Christianity— 
that Semitic religion of the weak, etc. ... In 1930 none of the politicians 
of the Weimar Republic would have admitted the possibility of such an 
enterprise as that which Hitler, quite lucidly, inaugurated in 1933: rearma¬ 
ment, annexation of Austria, liquidation of Czechoslovakia, defeat of France, 
aggression against the Soviet Union, etcIH Certain of these objectives were 
common to Hitler and to the German conservatives (enlargement of space), 
others were common to the majority of German public opinion (equality of 
rights, rearmament, Anschluss). Neither those who were nostalgic for im¬ 
perial Germany nor the parties of the Weimar Republic nourished such vast 
ambitions, inspired by such a conception of the world. 

The tactics were perhaps more specifically Hitlerian than the strategy. 
They differed profoundly from traditional or democratic tactics because they 
applied, on the international scene, the methods tested in the course of 
domestic and internal struggles. The grand strategy, to adopt the expres¬ 
sion fashionable some twenty years ago, involved the constant use of propa¬ 
ganda, that completed and renovated the classic methods of diplomacy. “De¬ 
fiance” was, during that first period, the instrument of success. In peacetime, 
instead of yielding to the will of the stronger, according to the polite practices 
of the chancelleries, Hitler acted as though he were the master, defying his 
adversaries to use force, to constrain him. 

The very act in which superficial observers see the proof that Stalinist or 
Hitlerian diplomacy was not ideological, the Russo-German Pact of 1939, is, 
correctly interpreted, the proof if not of the contrary, at least of the influence 
which regimes exert, in our period, upon the course of events. As a matter 
of fact, a regime analogous to that of the Weimar Republic, or else a regime 
derived from Tsarism as it existed in 1900, could not have reversed its 
propaganda from one day to the next. The Weimar Republic, it is true, had 
signed the Treaty of Rapallo, and the Reichswehr had undertaken arms tests 
with the cooperation of the Red army. The kings and emperors had once 
given the example of the partition of Poland. But, in the twentieth century, 
the diplomacy of every non-revolutionary regime has lost the capacity for such 

[§r am not asserting that in 1933 Hitler knew the successive stages of his undertak¬ 
ing. But he knew the point at which he wished to emerge: victory over the Soviet 
Union, enlargement of the Germans’ space. 



cynicism as that evidenced by Stalin and Hitler in 1939. Obliged to persuade 
public opinion, to present the allies as good and the enemies as wicked, the 
diplomacy of the European states, whether conservative or parliamentarian, 
is modest in its remote objectives, with a limited margin of maneuver at any 
given moment. Only the regime whose leaders have a short-range but vir¬ 
tually complete liberty with regard to public opinion can, from one moment 
to the next, bum what they once adored, adore what they once burned, 
without the people being profoundly disturbed, some believing in no propa¬ 
ganda, others believing in the truth of each moment, still others ready to 
trust the necessary cunning of their masters. 

Following this line of reasoning, we might formulate the following prop¬ 
osition: diplomatic tactics are more flexible as regimes are more authoritar¬ 
ian, that is, the leaders less subject to the pressures of groups or of public 
opinion; further, the objectives of diplomacies vary with regimes and are more 
rigorously determined as the regime is more ideological. These two proposi¬ 
tions are likely enough but not particularly instructive, and they require sev¬ 
eral corrections. To say that tactical flexibility is proportional to the leaders’ 
freedom of action is more of a platitude than a law. Moreover, if the leaders 
sincerely believe in progress, a specific advance in the state’s future history, 
they cannot fail to relate their plans to this prophetic vision. This does not 
mean that individual decisions are never affected by ideology or that strategy 
remains rigid in all cases. 

Let us take the example of the Soviet conduct of diplomacy. On the whole 
it is effectively flexible in its tactics and constant in its objectives and its 
representation of the world. The commentators incline to deny the action of 
ideology and have an easy time showing that most Soviet decisions can be 
interpreted in so-called rational terms, that is, in terms of the calculation of 
forces. The pact with the Third Reich shifted the war toward the West, 
which was in accord with the national interest of Russia, regardless of regime. 
Moscow’s domination of the Eastern European nations created a protective 
glacis at the same time that it corresponded to a traditional ambition of 
pan-Slavism. The conflict with the United States conforms to all the prece¬ 
dents, being implied, so to speak, by the geometry of the relations of forces: 
the two great powers of a bipolar system are enemies by position. This mode 
of comprehension is not false, but it is partial and may lead to erroneous 

The contrast between the rigidity of strategy and the flexibility of tactics 
does not derive exclusively from the ideological character of the former and 
the non-ideological character of the latter. The ideology of the Soviet state 
is such that it tolerates, if it does not impel, tactical flexibility. The Marxist- 
Leninist vision of history is essentially a succession of regimes, socialism 
following capitalism, socialism being defined as the government of the Com¬ 
munist party identified with the proletariat. But the degree of the develop¬ 
ment of productive forces does not fix the order in which the different nations 



achieve socialism. This process may be internal or external, caused by crisis 
or war, coup d’etat or intervention of the Red army. Finally, once the 
first so-called socialist state has been constituted, wars may either set the 
capitalist states against each other because they are doomed to imperialism, or 
may set the socialist camp against the capitalist camp because the former’s 
victory is ultimately inevitable. 

Whatever the course of events, an explanation or rather a theoretical 
formulation is possible. Do the United States and Great Britain have a 
dispute? Nothing is more logical, since the two economies are rivals. Do the 
Anglo-American powers conclude an alliance? Of course, the contradiction 
is expressed in an intimate cooperation. Does the Soviet Union sign an ex- 
pediential pact with the Third Reich? The spokesmen celebrate the meet¬ 
ing of two revolutions. Does the same Soviet Union find itself, by the force 
of circumstances, associated with the Western democracies? Bolshevism 
again becomes the brother of social democracy within the great family of 
the Left. Turn and turn about, wars between imperialist nations, then wars 
between socialist and capitalist nations will be more likely. 

Even the final goal is equivocal. Hitler’s strategic goal—a German Empire 
within an enlarged space—was concretely defined. The strategic goal of the 
Soviet Union is not defined to the same degree. Is it the universal diffusion 
of a regime which the leaders in Moscow would agree to call socialist (a 
single party identified with the proletariat, etc.)? Is it a world empire of the 
Soviet Union or of the (Bolshevik) Communist party of the U.S.S.R.? The 
two formulas are equivalent only provided the unity of the socialist camp 
is maintained outside the struggle with capitalism. Finally, war itself is no 
longer the inevitable stage before the universal victory of socialism. 

Must we agree with those who deny the influence of ideology and impute 
to institutions alone (to the modes of decisions) the difference in policy 
according to regime? Even in the case of the Soviet Union this conclusion 
would be erroneous. The Bolshevik vision of the world did not permit the 
Soviet leaders during the Second World War to believe in the duration or 
the authenticity of the alliance with the Western democracies. The awareness 
of hostility at the very moment of cooperation was dictated by doctrine. The 
Russo-American rivalry was established within the geometry of the relation of 
forces: the emotional hostility has been amplified if not created by ideological 
opposition. But further: doctrinal considerations have, on two occasions, mod¬ 
ified the calculation of forces and the determination of national interest. 

One policy, called realist, attempts to reduce the resources of its enemies, 
whether actual or potential; to increase that of its allies and to win to its 
cause those states that are not committed. Stalin treated Yugoslavia as an 
enemy the day the latter refused to obey Moscow’s directives; can we conceive 
of the Russo-Yugoslav dispute if the two states did not claim one and the 
same ideology? Why did Mr. Khrushchev for so many years refuse to show 
any fear of China, and why did he favor Chinese industrialization when the 



West unceasingly pointed out the danger of the "countless and impover¬ 
ished® yellow masses? According to Marxist philosophy, one socialist state 
does not endanger another. This philosophy, it is true, has not offered much 
resistance to experience, and from now on the two metropolitan nations of 
communism will be rivals, each proclaiming a different interpretation of the 
same gospel. The conflict, of course, results from opposing national interests, 
incompatible aspirations to the leadership of the bloc, but it has also been 
influenced by the faithful adherence of the two states to the same ideology. 
The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China would neither have 
become allies nor have quarreled as they have, without their common ad¬ 
herence to Marxism-Leninism. How could the calculation of national interest 
help but change with regimes, since each of these, as a result of its own 
doctrine, gauges affinities and hostilities differently? 

As a matter of fact, the Soviet Union seems to me to Lave behaved with 
Hitler, with its war allies, with its satellites, with the United States, and 
today with the United States and China in the manner which only a way of 
thinking linked to an ideological structure renders intelligible,!! 

Is it possible to formulate some general propositions as to the scope of the 
changes in diplomacy caused by the substitution of one regime for another? 
At first glance one is inclined to suppose that a revolution has great diplomatic 
consequences, insofar as they interest the actors who play the principal roles. 
In fact, all conduct of foreign policy involves, of necessity, a share of adapta¬ 
tion to circumstances. The share of adaptation is greater, the share of initiative 
smaller, when the actor plays a smaller role, in other words, has fewer forces 
at his disposal. 

However, this proposition requires modifications. A second-class state, by 
definition, does not determine major events, the style of diplomatic rivalry. 
It was Hitler’s success, not Mussolini’s, which changed the course of European 
history. But, within a heterogeneous system, the vicissitudes of partisan con¬ 
flicts within states may cause a shift from one camp to another, or from com¬ 
mitment to neutrality. The "national interest” of small states, far from being 
alien to ideological considerations, is, in a heterogeneous system, inseparable 
from such considerations. In i960 no one could define France’s national 
interest without taking into account the choice between regimes imposed by 

For the theory of the insignificance of regimes to assume some likelihood, 
we must imagine a diplomatic system in a space that has been demarked for 
centuries, a relatively homogeneous system, all the actors following more 
or less the same unwritten rules of diplomacy' and strategy. The geographical 
constancy of the diplomatic field indicates the lines of expansion of the var- 

HThe expression, it will be remembered, was coined by General de Gaulle. 

LilEven in matters of tactics it is not impossible to observe particularities and constants 
which characterize the Moscow leaders. Cf. N. Leites, The Operational Code of the 
Politburo, New York, 1951. 



ious states. At the end of the nineteenth century, when the world’s great 
powers were identified with the European states and the latter, whether 
republican or Tsarist, formed their alliances according to the moderate 
Machiavellianism of cabinets, the indifference of chancelleries to ideas and 
to regimes was considered an ideal, approximately realized with the advances 
of civilization. It requires a strange blindness in order to transform the 
model of the diplomacy of one epoch into an eternal model. 

2. The National Constants 

Beyond these observations, on which it would be virtually unnecessary to 
insist if some authors did not persist in denying them, an authentic question 
remains, namely, that of national constants. Does the “national interest” of a 
collectivity remain fundamentally the same throughout history? 

We have, in an earlier chapter, shown why the “national interest” cannot 
be the object of a rational determination. If the economist unhesitatingly 
takes as his objective a certain maximum (of goods, of the national product 
or profit), it is because economy is a science of means. The economist does 
not tell men or collectivities what to do with their goods (and the latter are 
defined in relation to demand). If the sociologist were capable of defining the 
national interest, he would be in a position to dictate to statesmen, in the 
name of science, their conduct. Such is not the case. The “maximization” 
of forces is not obviously imperative, since it implies putting at the state’s 
disposal the largest possible fraction of the collectivity’s resources. Why should 
men be